By: Israruddin Israr
In the history of Gilgit-Baltistan, sectarianism emerged for the first time over the issue of dispensation of power between two major sects of Islam -Shia and Sunni, when local people liberated the area from Dogra rule and took over the administrative affairs of GB on 1st November 1947.
During the initial four decades, the menace of sectarianism it was non- violent due to draconian maximalist law of FCR which could not allow the violence in the society on the bases of creed and sect. Soon after the abolishment of the FCR, sectarianism turned violent. The biggest incidents of violence occurred in 1988, 2005 and 2012. Apart from these, the region witnessed hundreds of other incidents of sectarian violence during the last three decades. It has claimed more than 800 lives, 3000 people have been injured and migration of hundreds of families has also occurred within GB, as well as to the other parts of Pakistan.
Now the weird impacts of last four decades violence has emerged in the shape of sectarianism as an institution in Gilgit-Baltistan. The institutions that are promoting sectarianism are pro-active and functional, whereas the institutions that were the source of social interaction are either nonfunctional or being demolished.
The religious Seminaries, Masajids, Imam Barghas and Jamat Khanas are all sect based institutions that are busy round the clock in imparting sectarianism as a whole. Now due to the last four decades sectarian violence, the secular and public institutions like schools, hospitals, NGOs and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) have also been divided on sectarian lines, while the public spaces have also been divided and transformed into no go areas and killing zones of the city.
Shahi Polo ground is one of the places (rendezvous) of effective social interaction. Polo tournaments are held twice in a year and, friendly matches are also held often every year.
When polo matches are held in the Shahi Polo ground thousands of spectators go there to enjoy the game and, without any difference of sect, color, language and caste, they support their favorite polo teams. But it’s not a day to day activity. That is why it is not as much effective as the sect based institutions.
The cinemas are actually rendezvous and good public places. There were popular cinemas like Naseem, Garrison and Raqs in the Gilgit city. Unfortunately, all the three cinemas have been demolished in the decade of 90s and 2000s.
Parks are good public places, too. A city park is located in Kashrot area where other communities cannot visit because of sectarian violence, whereas other areas (Mohallas) of the city are deprived of parks. Same situation is with play grounds, municipal library and picnic spots. Recently constructed sports complex is located in Jutial which is not accessible to youth who are from middle of the city.
There is no any auditorium, art gallery, gym, hokey ground etc in the city. The local culture had been a binding force for the social fabric of Gilgit city. But now the sect based institutions have ruined all the cultural events as well as rituals of Gilgit society.
For example, Shakeel Ahmed Shakeel narrates that in Gilgit the festival named “Shaap” – a traditional ritual and a peculiar event of Shina Community, was celebrated in winter after slaughtering Nasalo (Traditional ritual of slaughtering animals to dry meat for the whole winter). The old Gilgit city was comprised of eleven villages that are called Kot, and the eleven Kots were divided into two sectors that was called Phari, pʰarí. Every Kot had its Trangpha, (Namberdar) and Zetú (Helper of Namberdar). People from all Kots celebrated Shaap in their Kot on different nights and finally they celebrated Thal Shaap (Grand Shaap) jointly.
After it they gathered in Kot Mohla Gilgit for Brangsa (Feast). All shaap groups from eleven Kot came there to attend the feast.There was a competition of Phali Gaaye (crambo) held between two sectors, the spectators mentally as well as physically involved in the competition and supported the crambo player of their respective sectors. Unfortunately, many a time the feast would end with a quarrel of the groups of opposite sectors. But those quarrels did not result in killings and murders, because the rivals did not have any concern to decode their symbolic prestige or identity”. Shaap was a great source and space of social interaction among the people of Gilgit city. Many other cultural events were also held which were the sources of social interaction.
Marriage ceremonies were also sources of social interaction; people from different sects attended each other’s marriages and performed the traditional dance on the music of local band. Cross sect marriages was also a common practice of the area. And the funeral ceremonies were also source of interaction, people attended each other’s funeral ceremonies without biasness of sect. But now a day’s people don’t attend such ceremonies with the traditional zeal and zest. All the cultural events which were the source of social interaction are now vanished.
Apart from it, there are sect-based NGOs and community based organization, while the alarming situation is it that there are dozens of sect based youth led organizations, there supreme motto is to serve their sect only and defend it from other sects. These organizations are basically the tools which are being used for the sectarianism. These youth led organizations have no sympathy with the youth of other sects. Such faith based organizations have blocked the traditional social and political means of interaction for the youth. While political parties have also divided on sect bases. The existing so called secular intuitions in GB are also inspired with sect based approach of society; therefore they can’t combat the sectarianism within the institutions as well as in the society.
There are only some secular institutions and youth led organizations, but they have no say in the society due to their week capabilities in terms of resources and social resistance.
The above discussion unveils the fact that the faith based institutions have sabotaged the culture and the secular institutions of social interaction in Gilgit city particularly and Gilgit-Baltistan as a whole. Now, we have only sect based institutions which are busy in the task of brain washing of the new generation against each other’s sects. The faith based institutions are nothing more than the factories which are producing the extremists; some of them express their hatred with violence others express it through other means.
Now the efforts of secular people are confined to individuals in the comparison of faith-based institutions. We have no secular institutions against these faith based factories. If the society do not understand the crux of this problem, let the current trend to dominate and does not promote and strengthen the secular institutions in the parallel of sect based institutions, this malady of sectarianism will have a terrible and irreparable impacts on the society of GB.
The writer is a Gilgit Based senior journalist and columnist. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org