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Politics of pilgrimage

Politics of pilgrimage
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Dargah Ajmer Sharif is a shrine which attracts every year lakhs of pilgrims, Muslims as well as non-Muslims. The belief among Muslims is that those...

Dargah Ajmer Sharif is a shrine which attracts every year lakhs of pilgrims, Muslims as well as non-Muslims. The belief among Muslims is that those who cannot go to the Haj for some reasons can visit Ajmer Sharif which comes the nearest. Pakistan's Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf took a trip to Ajmer Sharif as an ordinary pilgrim. But he never bargained for the boycott by the shrine's spiritual head, Zainul Abedin Ali Khan, in protest against the recent brutal killings and beheading of Indian soldiers by the Pakistani army. It is a valid argument but should the spiritual head have raised the issue at this juncture. He could have made the same point after performing his protocol duties. The Khadims, who control the 12th century shrine of Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, took exception to this rightly and went ahead to welcome the Pakistan Prime Minister. What amazes me is the boycott itself. The Dargah is open to all, as every house of God is. At the Golden Temple at Amritsar, there are four gates so that the pilgrims can come from any side in large numbers. The spiritual head of Dargah has no authority, legal or moral, to warn the Pakistan Prime Minister against entering the Dargah. His statement, however authentic, gives an impression of cheap publicity or a tilt which is meant to placate the authorities that may be. The spiritual head was even requested to defer his protest but he did not heed the advice. Strange, as the spiritual head, he doesn't realize that the reception of a pilgrim to the Dargah should not depend on his vocation or the position he occupies. Even his beliefs do not matter. No human being can stand between the creator and his creation. But bringing politics to everything that relates to the two countries is unhelpful, to say the least. That India and Pakistan should come closer to each other or that their relationship should emit goodwill and amity goes without saying. India's foreign minister Salman Khurshid rightly remarked that it was not fair on his part to say whether Pakistan Prime Minister's visit was a political decision or not. However, every time a dignitary from India meets with his counterpart should not be connected with the resumption of a dialogue between the two countries. That is a separate matter which, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says, the solution of problems between India and Pakistan is dependent on Islamabad eliminating terrorism as part of policy towards New Delhi.
Khurshid echoed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's thought when he said at Jaipur after hosting lunch to the Pakistan Prime Minister that the meeting was no occasion to discuss differences between the two countries. The Pakistan Prime Minister must have, however, appreciated the strong sentiments prevailing in the country over the beheading of Indian soldiers and the least the Pakistani army should have done is to order an inquiry into the incident. Coming back to the Dargah, traditionally the spiritual head only welcomes the visiting dignitary at the Nizam Gate and then the Khadims take them around. As per the schedule, the delegation in helicopters landed at Ghughara helipad and from there reached the Dargah covering a distance of 12.5 kilometres. The dignitaries were received at the main gate of the Dargah by the representatives of the Dargah committee and committee of Khadims. From there the Pakistan Prime Minister and his entourage reached the main shrine after passing from Buland Darwaza and others. He was welcomed to the beating of drums followed by a turban tying ceremony which took place as per tradition. He presented at the Dargah a 43-yard chaddar on his behalf.
What amazes me is the boycott itself. The Dargah is open to all, as every house of God is. At the Golden Temple at Amritsar, there are four gates so that the pilgrims can come from any side in large numbers
Not long ago, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari visited the shrine and announced a donation of $1 million. Till today nobody knows what happened to the promised donation. But the Dargah management does not know of anything. Newspapers have picked up the story but there has been no response from President Zardari. The entire episode went off well. However, it is not understandable why the BJP and the Shiv Sena questioned the need to welcome the Pakistani Prime Minister. Khurshid was correct in his reply: "They just have to look at their own history and they will know why." Indeed, it was churlish on the part of the two parties to have criticized traditional gestures. Wouldn't it have been better if the Pakistan Prime Minister was told not to come? The irresponsible behavior by the Shiv Sena is not surprising but that of the BJP is. Contacts between the people of India and Pakistan are a welcome move and the more the two sides get nearer to each other, the better it would be for the region. A In any case, a pilgrimage has nothing to do with politics. It is a pity that both the Shiv Sena and the BJP have stretched the issue to a point where they looked ridiculous.
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