This day in 1979: when the state sponsored hooligans burnt and desecrated the holy Quran. At the heart of this frenzy was to take political revenge from Jamaat-e-Islami

Blast from the past


Zufikar Ali Bhutto was hanged to death in a murder case in Pakistan. Not a single even feeble voice was raised in Pakistan against his death. In some parts of Pakistan, it was rather celebrated by distributing sweets by some anti Bhutto people.

But in Kashmir the case was quite reverse.

The news of Bhutto’s hanging was received with shock. Thousands of people took to streets to mourn Bhutto’s death. In Islamabad (Anantnag), protesters attacked deputy commissioner’s office in their very first reaction. In other parts of the valley, people, though equally shocked, remained by and large peaceful during street demonstrations.

But everything changed in the evening with chief minister Shiekh Mohammad Abdulla’s appeal: “Demonstrate your feelings but don’t attack government offices and property”.

On April 5, people all over the valley came on to streets attacking Jamaat-e-Islami men, their property, orchards, houses, shops and even livestock. National Conference activists and functionaries were leading the attackers. While three Jamaat-e-Islami members/supporters were killed by the unruly mobs, at least 20,000 houses and other structures belonging to Jamaat people were torched.

The entire Arwani village (known as capital town of Jamaat-e-Islami) was rendered into ruins by a mob of 50,000 people which had come from Bijbehara in the east, Zainapora, Wachi, Maman in the north-west and Frisal, Kulgam from the south.

The attackers had not only the support of the ruling National Conference but the state law and order machinery also looked the other way.

I was studying in Aligarh Muslim University then. I still remember a six-column story in Times of India filed by its reporter datelined Arwani. I don’t recall the name of the reporter but heading is still fresh in my memory.

“Mute Spectators of Law Let Frenzy Grip Kashmir”

Supported by photographs, the reporter said that in a basti of 2000 people, he saw just a dog outside a burnt house with no other living being around.    

Means of communications were quite a few those days. While TV network was in its embryonic days, radio and national newspapers were the only sources of information. Radio was under complete control of the government and newspapers too were very economical in reporting the real happenings.

Finally, I, along with other student friend Saifullah, a resident of Arwani village, decided to return Kashmir to see for myself. We straightway went to Arwani. It looked some thousand-year old habitation deserted by its residents hundreds of years before. No house in the entire village was intact. The residents, who had fled the village fearing for their lives, had come back. They were picking the threads of theirs lives afresh.

It was quite a painful scene as I knew the village very well. Besides having many friends in the village, I used to pass through the village in the bus almost daily during my college days. I was told that besides NC supporters, communist cadres too were in the forefront of the attackers.

I was told that Professor Ghulam Rasool Malik (who some years back retired as head of English department in Kashmir University) had a huge library comprising of thousands of books on religion, literature, philosophy and other subjects. The whole library was set on fire and the only book that was spared was Carl Marx’s Das Capital. I never got a chance to confirm it from Malik Sahab but later on many occasions heard from Gilani Sahab too.

Back in my village, around 10,000 rioters from scores of surrounding villages had converged and set the house of my uncle Ghulam Nabi Shokeen on fire. He was then a known Jamaat man in the area. Three other structures too belonging to other Jammat men were also burnt by the arsonists. The attackers were searching for my uncle to physically annihilate him but he had already fled to a safer place.

At Mooloo Chitragam, around 50,000 rioters from Shopian, Pulwama, Pinjoora, Trenj, Aarihal, Turkwangam and other villages had converged to set the village ablaze. The villagers, however, fought back and repulsed the attackers initially. But the mob grew in volumes later and attacked the village again burning dozens of houses.

Moloo Ckitragam is a central village of Jamaat supporter in Shopian. Former Amir Jamaat (Late) Hakim Ghulam Nabi belonged to this village. After ruining the village in fire, the attackers rampaged the orchard of Hakim Sahab and chopped hundreds of apple trees.

In Shopian, the mindless mobs not only cut down apple trees in Jammat’s founding leader Moulana Ghulam Ahmad Ahrar’s orchard but also burnt copies of Tafheemul Quran (a marvellous and a scholarly translation and commentary on Quran by Allama Mauddudi. It was desecrated and thrown into gutters as “Jamaet Quran”. Dozens of mosques too were burnt down in the frenzy and chaos.

In Kulgam, around 50 shops, business outlets and oher structures besides residential house of senior Jammat man Abdur Razaq Mir (late) were burnt into ashes. Houses and properties of other Jamaat people were also set ablaze.

In Pulwama, a relative-lady told me that neighbours, joined by hundreds others from nearby villages, gheraoed their house and put forward a condition if “we wanted to escape their wrath”. “Either your husband shave off his beard and announce his no-relation with the Jamaat or your house would be torched”. “We refused to accept their condition. They barged into our house raising slogans and looted all the household things, and burnt it on the road”, she said. “They could not set the house on fire as it could have affected other surrounding houses’, she said.

In Islamabad, a friend told me that a mob of over 20,000 people gathered outside the house of a prominent Jamaat man Ghulam Mohammad Shakir (late). He was a teacher by profession and respected all over the town for his dedication, honesty and religiosity. The mob, as a show of respect, did not harm him but asked him to refresh his faith as Musalmaan by reciting Kalima anew. He was taken into a procession to the Mandi Kadal stadium where his beard was shaved off and a molvi sahib rehearsed him Kalima.

MY father told me that at Jamia Masjid Litter (he used to offer Friday prayers regularly there) a senior NC leader (then MLA) was asked about the desecration of Quran by hooligans during pro Bhutto protests. He justified it by referring to desecration of Quran by Hazrat Ali’s army during the war of Sifin with Ma’aviyan army.

In Central and north Kashmir too, the anti Jamaat forces took it as an opportunity to settle score with the Jamaat. The lawlessness lasted for about a weak during which property works hundreds of crores was destroyed.

Bhutto was hanged under the rule of military dictator Zia-ul-Haque but it was Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir that was made to pay for it. 

At the heart of all this rage was the political revenge the National Conference wanted to take from the Jamaat-e-Islami for exhibiting the courage to standing up against the mighty Shiekh Mohammad Abdullah, who had returned to power in the wake of an Accord with them Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Those days there were only three major political parties in the valley—NC, Congress and Jamaat-e-Islami. While NC and Congress were in alliance and the Congress men vacated seats (Ganderbal and Devsar) for Shiekh Mohammad Abdullah and his deputy Mirza Afzal Beg, Jamaat fielded candidates in both constituencies to thwart Abdullah a walkover. This hurt his ego and he went after the Jamaat. First he tried to crush the Jamaat by getting it banned from the central government in the aftermath of emergency declared by Indira Gandhi in 1975 and then used the Bhutto case to settle the score with the Jamaat.

Jamaat was banned in 1990 also. Last month the central government again imposed ban on the Jamaat, which has now been challenged in Jammu and Kashmir High Court.






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