Prelude: Rejinagar Shariyati Violence
“Out beyond the ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field — I’ll meet you there.”
- Jalaluddin Rumi
- Jalaluddin Rumi
One of the most important trends in contemporary Bengal is to strategize for converting a multicultural society to a monolithic pattern. The century long tendency of attack on Bengalee folk singers, Baul-Fakirs on the name of societal chastity now turns in to more perilous position. Political religion in structured and localized form now targets parallel system of belief and practice in own religion. And here Rejinagar incident provides us a chronicle of torture in such a symmetrical pattern that we decide to publish it in separate book head as the topic requires more concentration for its exclusivity among other contemporary discourses. Giving voice to the shared perception of all the tortured folks, we also target to publish separate report on attacks against Baul-fakirs very shortly.
Orthodoxy in both sides seeks to perpetuate on illusionary dichotomy they used, which juxtapose a highly charged, religio-politicized Muslim identity. We know that Salafism or Wahabism1 (referred as a cult of Ahl-e-Hadith) is supposed to be directly opposed the Sufi tone of Islam. Here in India due to democratic and secular polity conflict was not aggravated or took a violent appearance. Apart from the stanch followers of Shariyati and Sufism (here villagers called them as Pirponthi); it is totally confusing for the common Muslims to identify their differences and why they condemn and criticize each other.
Drawing on inclusive narratives and interactions with the survivors of the Rejinagar Shariyati violence, common people and activists who resisted; this report anatomizes how Radical Islam hypothesizes to engulf Popular Islam or Sufism. This meticulous field study makes a significant and timely contribution to the discussions on radicalization of society, administrative inaction and particularly peoples resistance. It is a little but in-depth research we able to complete.
We visited the villages, Teghori, Paschim Teghori and Nazirpur (under Rejinagar Police Station, Murshidabad) three times; the second one was the time of Ursh, the place where Shariyati mob ransacked a Darbar, a bamboo made local construction. Despite the anti-Pirponthi stand of local Imams a sizeable crowd participated there and also rituals were performed. While in our rudimentary visit, we were experienced by the stricture of the female members of the family of the respondent Khadims, particularly in the area where Shariyati mob ravaged Sufi Centers. The village, Paschim Teghori, where Pirponthis resisted and abled to prevent destruction of their Darbar, was much more spontaneous. In the area of rest three Darbars, which were ransacked in a same day (29.10.2016) people remain unspoken. We also visited an old Darbar, Shariyati mob destroyed it 7 years back, and here victims shared that incident with grief and grievance. We keep all interactions and anguishes verbatim.
We are informed that Piponthis are threatened after our departure as they dare to reveal the atrocities they got from Shariyatis. The Pirponthis of Paschim Teghori, the resisting force here play the lead role to organize followers of different Sufi Tariqas2. Here two major Tariqas of Indian sub-continent, Qadiriya3 and Chishtiya4 have their followers.
Their mystical approach, religious performance in front of grave, use of music, musical instrument and dance create irksome for Shariyati followers. Shariyati followers believed that these cultural activities are against Islam. They announced restriction or publicized Fatwa by banning Mazar, Dargah, Nazargah, Darbar, Akhra and Ursh; if anybody (Muslim) goes there and takes part in the religio-cultural activities will be boycotted and also terminated from Islam. The said villages in Rejinagar witnessed the brutal materialization of Fatwa.
Our attempt to make contact with the Imams of local Mosques (including Jame Masjid) failed initially. But by the condition to keep his identity secret, an Imam emphasized their stand quoting Hadith and also denied his personal involvement in 29th October incident. The practice of Different Sufi orders in this village is Shirk, he said. In Islam the Shirk means the sin of practicing idolatry or Polytheism. The Hadith he talked about were mentioned in this report.
We repeatedly make attempt to talk with the Rejinagar Police Station, but we became unsuccessful. On 11 May, 2017 we emailed to the District Magistrate of Murshidabad and the Block Development Officer of Beldanga-II Block urging restoration of peace and normalcy and to book the perpetrators of Darbar destruction under the relevant section of Indian Penal Code. But till date no reply came in. No person was arrested.
We think the incident of Rejinagar Shariyati violence is a continued and well-planned strategy of Political Islam to destroy and occupy Sufi centers. The philosophy of single brand always attacks multiculturalism in different religiosity. The rise of Hindutva forces doing the same in different parts of India by imposing single brand of faith. In West Bengal, the hobnobbing between ruling party and Imams, Clerics gave a clear message to the mass that who are the authority of Muslim community. The unconstitutional powers they possess are largely hypothecated by the ruling party and these gave the massage to the administration to remain dysfunctional.
The Rejinagar-pattern atrocities were already in motion in various parts of West Bengal; it is our inability that we are unable to make documentation for every incident. We know about the brutal attack on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Sufi Shrine at Sindh, Pakistan on February, this year. The blast took place during a Sufi ritual, Dhamal, when thousands of devotees were present. 85 persons were killed. People reacted largely, protested by performing Dhamal. Disgracefully here the day is nearer.
Subha Protim Roy Chowdhury
AAMRA (An Assemblage of Movement Research and Appraisal) Kolkata.
1. Wahabism or Wahhabiya- An ultra-conservative, puritanical Muslim movement adhering to the Hanabaite law, although it regards itself as ghair muqallidin, non-adherent to parties, but defending truth. It arose in Najd in the Arabian Peninsula during the 18th century. Its founder, Muhammad Ibn Abd Al-Wahhib (1703-87) found a champion in the tribal leader Muhammad Ibn Saud of the Dariya region, and from then on the Soudis became the main supporters of that movement. They believe that the Muslims have abandoned their faith in one God (tawhid) and have distorted Islam through innovations (bida) which run counter to pure Islam: ‘All objects of worship other than Allah are false, and all who worship such are deserving of death’ (Abd Al-Wahhib). The Wahhabis accept only the Quran and the authentic Hadith and reject 1400 years of development and interpretation in Islamic theology and mysticism. They oppose any veneration of saints and tombs, prohibit the decoration of Mosques, ban luxury and forbid any importation of kafir culture in their society. Furthermore, all Muslims who do not accept their creed are regarded as heretics, particularly the Shias, who are considered as archenemies of Islam.
During the 19th century, the Wahhabis in alliance with the Saud family began to expand territorially, and to threaten the interest of the Ottoman Empire. In 1802 they captured Karbala, and in 1803 Mecca. Thrown back by a long campaign, they were not politically strong until Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud captured Riyadh and established a new kingdom. The Hejaz was taken, but attempts to expand northward were blocked. Within the new kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabis became dominant in conservative control, introducing mutawwiun, ‘enforce of obedience’, a kind of private religious police, monitoring not only public but also private conformity to Islam
2. Tariqa- Originally a way of classifying the rules and methods by which a mystical approach to God might be sustained; it became a term for the different Sufi systems themselves, along with their rules and rituals.
3. Qadiriya- A Sufi order (tariqa) founded in the 12th century by Abdal al-Qadir al-Jili, who was revered as a teacher and also a worker of miracles. Given the Sufi tendency to see the manifestation of being in the particulars of creation, but especially in Sufi adepts, it is not surprising that al-Jili was regarded as Lord of creation after and under God, and reverenced as ch. His tomb in Bagdad is a place of Pilgrimage. The order makes use of music and dance, particularly to encourage trance states. It is widespread from Morocco to India.
4. Chishtiya- Min al Din Muhammad Chisti (AH 537-633) was an Indian, who mediated an important order (tariqa), Chistiya into India. He was much influenced by Abd al-Qadir-who, as a traditionalist, once said, ‘my foot is on the head of every holy man.’ Chisti emphasized fear of hell-fire as an important constraint in religious life, but he also encouraged music and chant since ‘song is the support and the sustenance of the soul’. The Chistiya, the sufi movement derived from him continues to make music central. It developed the qawwali (singers) whose songs of love and devotion to Allah are a feature of holidays and festivals. He died at Ajmer, and his tomb is celebrated place of pilgrimage. The heads of the Indian Sub-continent used to make trip to Ajmer Sharif as it gathers one of the highest numbers of pilgrims in India from different faith.