Court allows Muslim festival at disputed Karnataka site
Muslim caretaker is relieved at the turn of events over a two-decade old dispute
When 40-year-old Syed Ghouse Mohiyuddin Shah Khadri lost his father in 1999, he also risked losing what was his entitlement to a legacy and tradition. Being the high priest in the Baba Budangiri Dargah—the Ayodhya of the south—this ‘Shah Khadri’ was suddenly facing displacement of two kinds.
“The government sent me a notification on 27 November 2000, stating that it was appointing me as the Shah Khadri of the shrine. I challenged the notification within a week, questioning the government’s right to appoint a religious priest, as it is supposed to be secular body. On the other hand, even the Sangh Parivar was claiming that this was a Hindu shrine,” says Ghouse.
To his utter disbelief, the High Court stated in a 2005 judgment that the matter had to be investigated by looking at history and tradition before the time of eighteenth century king Hyder Ali.
Since 2005, the shrine did not see the annual Urs as the title Shah Khadri had become a disputed matter.
Enraged by the High Court judgment, Ghouse moved a petition in the Supreme Court. Finally, the Supreme Court on 1 March said Ghouse had the right to conduct Urs according to tradition.
“The court has given the permission for Urs to be conducted between 1 March and 4 March. This has basically confirmed the order of the Commissioner of Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments that Shah Khadri be allowed to perform the Urs according to custom,” says lawyer Jaiveer Shergill.
“The government had stopped Shah Khadri from entering the Dargah last year too. So we asked for a confirmation on a verdict the Supreme Court had given in 2008. ” he said speaking to TEHELKA over the phone.
The Baba Budangiri Sufi shrine, a place of worship and mystique for both Muslims and Hindus, turned into a communal hotbed in the late 1980s. Societal memory, that had guarded the dual identity of the legend, Dada Hayath Meer Qalandar for the Muslims, Lord Dattatreya for the Hindus, turned sour.
With chest-pumping rhetoric from the Sangh Parivar, claiming that the shrine was a temple of Lord Dattatreya, faith morphed into demagoguery.
“This judgment preserves the status-quo by ruling that Syed Ghouse is the rightful Shah Khadri and is a setback to the Sangh Parivar,” says KL Ashok, Convenor of the Karnataka Forum for Communal Harmony. “The district committee, that had created problems for Syed Ghouse from carrying on as the Shah Khadri, had indirectly benefited the Sangh Parivar. The Bajrang Dal went on claiming that Shah Khadri had no role to play as it was a Hindu shrine. This judgment goes a long way in conserving Sufi traditions and communal amity in the region,” he added.
Syed Ghouse can barely hide his excitement over being finally able to celebrate Urs this time according to the custom. “The Sufi mystique of the Baba will continue to survive. Be it Shankaracharya or Vivekananda or spiritual leaders of other faiths, the message has been to coexist and strive to find the truth. The dargah is going to welcome people from all faiths, like it always has.”