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Published in the 1-15 Mar 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition


Community: Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3

The Milli Gazette Online

It was about Nellie
In your latest issue, a letter from Mr. Shahabuddin to Sonia Gandhi was published under the Heading "Shahabuddin's Letter to Sonia Gandhi on Bhagalpur Riots". The letter relates to Nellie Massacre, 1983, not the Bhagalpur Riots. 
(for Syed Shahabuddin)

Maratha conversion to Shiv Dharma
Apropos of your article on renunciation of Hinduism by some Marathas in Buldana on 12 January, 2005, I find that the title is somewhat misleading. Even if one assumes that indeed 2,50,000 Marathas etc. attended the Buldana function and all present renounced Hinduism, that is a very small fraction of the Maratha population!
Neither Salunkhe, the mentor of the movement, nor Khedekar, the President of the Maratha Sewa Sangh and the founder of the new ‘religion’ Shiv Dharma has defined its doctrines or dogmas. It has only deified Jijabai, the mother of the Maratha hero Shivaji.
One should not allow oneself to be bowled over by this development. This is part of the anti-Brahminical wave among the Shudras which has been rising since late 19th and 20th century. Such anti-Brahmin movements have been limited in their impact and never made any impression the mass of Hinduism. That explains why the national press has taken no notice of this event. In any case, Shiv Dharma followers will continue to be counted as Hindus in the census and follow their caste and sub-caste customs and traditions.
I wish Khedekar had either defined the doctrines and dogmas of his new religion or led his followers into Islam or Christianity or Buddhism, the other major religions of the country.
From the Islamic point of view, does it really matter whether some Marathas stop worshipping one deity and begin worshipping another?
Syed Shahabuddin

Muzzled, but exciting news. Mailed it to several friends and sites...constitutes important news, even if one chose to ignore the event or its importance. However slow be the dawn it is irresistible. New equations in the Indian social system can be easily envisioned in this Maharashtra event. Where it will lead, whether it will stay free of pollution and manipulation, whether it will be violently suppressed from proceeding apace, we cannot predict. But it is very good development. Sociologists and cultural critics can ill afford ignoring it as a phenomenon of consequence. The only spanner that irks me in it is Shivaji's name. I am seriously concerned about its implications and vulnerability. I don't give a tinker's dam if the metro (merchant/bania) media blacked it out.
I. K. Shukla

India, a land of diverse cultures, religions and languages is one of the most composite secular nation in the world. 

One of the most interesting and fascinating communities are the Shiite Muslim Ismaili Bohras. Converted from Vaishiya Jains some four hundred years ago, the community has largely contributed to the cultural, commercial and spiritual essence of India.

The Bohras like other communities world over, have over the centuries divided into Sulaimai Bohras, Alia Bohras, Nagoshi Bohras and the most successful and largest sect the Daudi Bohras. 

More recently the popularly known Engineeri Bohras, the latest faction of dissidents within the Daudi Bohras since the last few decades, comprise about eighty families who are led by the media-stereotyped Islamic scholar, Shri Asgher Ali Engineer. However, unlike other Bohra sects who intensely revere and respect their spiritual leaders, the couple of hundred Engineeri Bohras understandably do not draw any kind of spiritual inspiration or religious motivation from their leader. 

The Bohras known for their business acumen and 'live and let live' attitude are, culturally and traditionally similar to each other in one way or another. Nevertheless all sects have their own ideological and doctrinal differences and eventually are socially and culturally recognized in accordance to their free choice of leaders and hence, named as Daudis, Alias, Sulaimanis, Nagoshis or Engineeri Bohras accordingly. 

The Indian Constitution under Article 24 and 25 has as a matter of fact provided all these sects their own human right for preaching and practicing their respective religious ideologies. This includes the Bohras' constitutional right to maintain and administer their own burial grounds, places of socio-religious gatherings and account monies as per the Law of the land. Consequently, all respective sects of the Bohras categorically have no say in each others affairs. 

Unsurprising as it was, the recent media-hyped gala organized by Engineeri Bohras under the auspices of the questionable Central Board of Daudi Bohras recently in Surat was totally ignored by the Daudi Bohras at large. For, The Board enjoys no legal, moral or religious right or authority to propagate for so-called reforms within the close-knit, million strong Daudi Bohra Community led by Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.

As a matter of fact, it is on these grounds that the Supreme Court of India (Writ Petition No. 740 of 1986) once again up-held and justified the excommunication of all members of the Central Board of Daudi Bohras from the Daudi Bohra Community for their rejection and denouncing the supreme authority and powers of the sect's leader in totality. 

In previous judgments too, both the Bombay High Court and the apex Court, specifically mentioned that, Dr. Syedna being the representative and vicegerent of the Imam, who according to the Daudi Bohra belief is in seclusion, is duty-bond to excommunicate miscreant persons from the community in the interest of the faithful followers of the Imam and is authorized to debar such persons to avail facilities of the Mission of the Imam known as Dawat-e-Hadiyah.

Already being a settled principle of law, (Privy Council Appeal No. 79 of 1945 in Hasanali Vs. Mansoorali (50-BLR) and Supreme Court of India Writ Petition No. 128 of 1958 in Sardar Dr Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb Vs State of Bombay - A.I.R. 1962 SC 856), the irrational proposal of The Board persisting for the Government of India to control the numerous Trusts administered by Dr. Syedna as quoted in the case of Ajmer Dargah Trust and Tiripathi Temple Trust, does subsequently not arise. The State financial and Charity institutes and authorities are in the best of position to question Dr. Syedna rather than the controversial Board.

Furthermore, The Board unjustly advocating on human rights violation within the community by Dr. Syedna holds no water. The Indian Judiciary has repeatedly over ruled such fallacious alleges made by Engineeri Bohras. Author of Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God: Retracing the Ramayana through India, Jonah Blank writes in his ground breaking book Mullahs on the Mainframe: Islam and Modernity among the Daudi Bohras that the unforced stream of faithfuls coming by buses, trains and by air wherever the religious leader of the Daudi Bohras travels in their regions, evinced genuine affection and respect for the leader rather than reflect signs of oppression within the community as unrightfully claimed by the reformist leader Asger Engineer.

It is sheer hypocrisy on the part of The Board when one goes through The Board's own Constitution. It clearly mentions that one would be entitled to be a member if one would professes to be a Daudi Bohra; subject to all regulations made from time to time by the Central Committee; only The Board's members are entitled to benefit from its facilities. It further mentions that a member may be expelled on failing to pay one's dues of a period exceeding three years.

When the Engineeri Bohras according to their Constitution can expel members, avail facilities only for themselves, make it obligatory upon members to follow rules and regulations of The Board, then why can't the Daudi Bohras excommunicate undisciplined, self-centered individuals from their community. Isn't it not their human right to safeguard the sect's traditions and beliefs from those who intend to deform rather than reform the community. Evident as it is The Board is deliberately inclined to defame and insult the peace loving Daudi Bohra Community and its highly respected leader even after repetitive judicial reprimands and socio-religious rejection. 

Over the years the Indian judiciary, legislature and executive institutes of the nation have come to understand that The Board under Shri Engineer is largely indulged in the character assassin of the Daudi Bohra leaders and prominent community members for monetary gains, publicity stunts and for causing disharmony.

A disheartening factor apparent in the disingenuous gathering in Surat was the presence of an erudite person like Jamia Millia Islamia Vice Chancellor, Professor Mushirul Hasan. Probably unaware of the judicial facts and investigative findings, the VC unnecessarily shared the podium at the gala in support a self-claimed Islamic scholar and so-called 'Swami', Shri Agnivesh, who both are largely disrespected and unrecognized by most of the Muslim and Hindu intelligentsia and masses. 

Bharti. A. Desai
Journailst Athwa Lines, 

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