The Plunder of Shias, known in Kashmir’s history as Taaraj-e Shia, refers to the ten campaigns of terror against Shias of Kashmir in the years 1548, 1585, 1636, 1686, 1719, 1741, 1762, 1801, 1831 and 1872 CE, carried out by Sunni clergy and fanatic militias of the area and abroad; during which the Shia neighborhoods were plundered, Shia people including women and children were slaughtered, raped or burnt alive, books were burnt, corpses mutilated and sacred sites were destroyed.
In the medieval period, the Middle East saw bloody clashes between both sects but the Indian subcontinent remained safe and peaceful because of the secular policy of Mughals. Until the end of the seventeenth century CE, only two anti-Shia books were written in India: Minhaj al-Din by Makhdoom-ul Mulk Mullah Abdullah Sultanpuri and Radd-e Rawafiz by Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi.
As far as armed violence is concerned, the medieval period has only few examples of Shias being killed for their beliefs, most notable incidents are the killing of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in 769 CE, the destruction of Multan by Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi in 1005 CE, the persecution of Shias of Delhi at the hands of Sultan Feroz Shah (1351–1388 CE), and the target killing of Mullah Ahmad Thathavi in 1589 CE.
However, the killer of Mulla Ahmad Thathavi was sentenced to death at the orders of the Emperor Akbar. The killing QaziSyed NurullahShushtari seems to be politically motivated because Emperor Jahangir disliked his father who did not consider him suitable for the throne, and persecuted men of his court. The region of Srinagar in Kashmir is an exception in middle ages with ten bloody Taraaj-e Shia campaigns.
In 1381 CE, after Timur invaded Iran, Mir Syed Ali Hamdani, an Iranian Sufi arrived in Kashmir with a large number of disciples and preached Islam. He instilled the love of Ahlul Bayt in the hearts of the new converts and wrote many books and tracts. Shi’ism was properly introduced by Mir Shams-ud Din Iraqi whose grandfather Syed Muhammad Noor Bakhsh belonged to the Sufi order of Mir Syed Ali Hamdani and had huge following base in Iran, Qandhar, Kabul and Kashmir. Mir Shams-ud Din arrived in Kashmir in 1481 CE and then returned to Iran.
Twenty years later in 1501 CE, he came to Kashmir again, along with 700 Shia Sufis, scholars and missionaries. In 1505 CE, the King of the Shah Mir Dynasty converted to Shi’ism and so did the Chak clan of Kashmir. Mir Shams-ud Din Iraqi traveled in the valleys of Himalayas and spread Shi’ism from Skardu to Tibet, converting thousands of Hindus and Buddhists to Shi’ism.
In 1516 CE, the Shia Chak dynasty was established and forcible conversions of Hindus began. In 1586 CE, Kashmir was merged with the Mughal Empire. Mughals appointed talented officers and contributed greatly to the cultural and economic life of Kashmir. In 1753 CE Kashmir got conquered by Ahmad Shah Abdali, whose descendants ruled over Kashmir untill they lost it to Sikhs in 1819 CE. The Kashmir valley came under the Dogra rule with the treaty of Amritsar signed between the British and Maharajah Gulab Singh of Jammu in 1846.
According to the 1873 British gazetteer of Kashmir:
“The Sunnis far outnumber the Shias, . . . of the latter there were said to be only a thousand houses, numbering about five or six thousand souls, . . . found chiefly at Zadibal, about two koss to the north of Srinagar, at Nandapor and Hassanabad, near to the city lake. Though so few in number, the men of this sect form the most active, industrious, and well-to-do portion of the Mohamedan community. The finest papier-mache workers and shawl makers in Srinagar are Shias, and some of the wealthiest men in the city belong to that sect“.
The First Taraaj
In 1532 CE, Sultan Said Khan dispatched an army under the command of Mirza HaiderDughlat that attacked Kashmir from Kashgar . He was a Sunni religious scholar and therefore he hated Shias. Soon he suffered a military defeat and fled to the Mughal King Humayun in Lahore. He returned in 1540 CE, accompanied by Mughal troops, at the invitation of one of the two rival factions that continually fought for power in Kashmir. He put an end to the Chak rule.
His reign was a reign of terror and Shias had no choice but to practice Taqiyya . In 1550 CE, on the recommendation of fanatic Sunni elites Edi Reinah and Haji Banday and clerics Qazi Ibrahim and Qazi Abdul Ghafoor, he destroyed the Shia neighborhoods, dug the grave of Mir Shams-ud Din Iraqi and burnt his corpse, and killed hundreds of Shias including Mir Danial, the son of Mir Shams-ud Din Iraqi. He had been arrested a year ago for proselytizing in Kargil and Skardu region. His assassination was compared by the Shias to the incidents Karbala . This sparked an all-out Shia uprising and Dughlat was assassinated by the end of the same year and the Chak rule was restored .
The Second Taraaj
In 1585 CE, Mirza Qasim Khan attacked Kashmir to annex it into Mughal Empire. When the Chak troops went outside to face the Mughal army, Sunni rebels set the Shia neighborhood of Zadibal on fire, looted their belongings and raped the Shia women. They fled through Poonch to join the Mughal army. The Chak rule came to an end.
The Third Taraaj
In 1636 CE, while people were picking fruits, an argument started between a Shia and a Sunni and it escalated to an all-out attack on the Shia neighborhoods. The Shia neighborhood of Zadibal was destroyed, inhabitants slaughtered, and the tomb of Mir Shams-ud Din Iraqi was burnt to the ground .
The Fourth Taraaj
In 1686 CE, the fourth Taraaj started with a financial matter between a Shia businessman Abdul Shakoor and a Sunni fanatic. Abdul Shakoor was alleged to have insulted the Companions of the Prophet and a local cleric issued a fatwa against him. The governor Ibrahim Khan offered him security and tried to control the situation, but the Sunni clerics managed to bring in millitias of Sunni Pashtun tribesmen from as far as Kabul, led by Alaf Khan, Farid Khan and Mirza Muqim, etc.
They forced the governor to hand over the Shia businessman to the mob for lynching. After that, the militias went on to attack the Shia neighborhood of Hasan Abad, killing many. A Sunni cleric, Mulla Muhammad Tahir Mufti tried to stop the mob, but his house was set on fire too. Another Shia notable, Baba Qasim, was caught by the invading militias, humiliated and tortured to death. The state tried to control the riots and some of the perpetrators were punished by death .
The Fifth Taraaj
In 1719 CE, a Sunni cleric Mulla Abd-un Nabi, also known as Mahtavi Khan, returned to Kashmir after being awarded a special status of Shaikh-ul Islam by the Emperor in Delhi. Following an argument with some Hindu officials of the government, he issued a fatwa which banned horse riding, covering head and wearing respectable dress for all the Hindus and also made it mandatory for them to send their children to the Islamic school (madrassa) and imposed religious tax on them.
The governor refused to implement this fatwa and he was backed by the opinion of other clerics. This affair led to riots, the fanatics among the Sunnis started to attack Hindu properties, and police had to use force to protect them. The governor ordered the arrest of Mulla Abd-un Nabi, whose supporters retaliated by attacking the army. Meanwhile Mulla Abd-un Nabi got killed and rumors spread that a Shia official had conspired his assassination.
The supporters of Mulla, led by his son Sharaf-ud Din, attacked the Shia neighborhood of Zadibal, and set it on fire. People were murdered, women were raped. Some women and children tried to hide in the tomb of Mir Shams-ud Din Iraqi, but when the Sunni mob reached there, the tomb was set on fire and those hiding inside were burnt alive. The Mughal governor was deposed and Kashmir remained a lawless land for one and a half year. In 1721 CE, the Mughal army entered Kashmir and restored order . Sharaf-ud Din and fifty others were sentenced to death .
The Sixth Taraaj
In 1741 – 1745 CE, there was another rebellion against the Mughal rule. Taking advantage of the situation, the rebels inflicted atrocities towards the Shia Muslims. Their houses were attacked and they were forced to pay heavy taxes and fines .
The Seventh Taraaj
In 1762 – 1764 CE, the Afghan ruler of Kashmir Buland Khan Bamzai persecuted the Shias. Once the rumor spread that some Shias have passed negative remarks about a Sufi saint HabibullahNowsheri. Furious Sunni mob attacked Zadibal neighborhood and torched the houses belonging to the Shias. Buland Khan ordered arrests of the Shias accused of blasphemy. They were terribly tortured and humiliated by cutting off their nose, limbs, ears, and heavy fines were imposed on them .
The Eighth Taraaj
In 1801 CE, Muharram procession was attacked by a Sunni mob after rumors spread that Shias were doing tabarra. The Pashtuns and extremists among the local Sunnis got together to attack the Shia neighborhood. They looted the belongings and raped the women .The British gazetteer notes:
“In the times of the Pathans, the Shias were not allowed to enact the feast of Moharem. In the time of Abdullah Khan, who made himself independent of his master at Kabul, they attempted to celebrate, but were attacked and plundered, and their houses burnt; some 150 of them (for there were very few in the city) were collected, their noses pierced, and one string passed through them all, and thus linked together, they were made to perambulate the bazars“.
The Ninth Taraaj
Kashmir was conquered by Sikhs in 1819. Since the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb, the Shias were supposed to provide the new carpets every year for Jamia Masjid, Srinagar. In 1831 CE, it was alleged that they delayed the delivery of the carpets and used them for Muharram gatherings in ImambaraZadibal. An argument erupted and when the news spread to the city, a mob attacked the Shia neighborhood. Precious belongings were looted and women were raped. Some Sunni men even cut the private parts of their female victims with knives . The British gazetteer notes:
“in the time of the governor Bama Singh, the Shias attempted to celebrate the Moharem, but the enraged Sunnis fell upon them, killed fifteen of them, and plundered their property; and the Persian merchants, of whom there were two or three hundred, retreated from Kashmir and have never since resided there“.
The Tenth Taraaj
In 1872 CE, during the yearly gathering (Urs) at the Shrine of a Sunni sufi saint Syed Muhammad Madani, the Sunnis demolished parts of the Shia mosque nearby. The Shias got together and beat the attackers up. The news spread in the city and a Sunni mob attacked the Shia neighborhood at dawn. The government acted swiftly and arrested around 1000 people. After investigations, some of the rioters were handed prison sentence for 2 to 3 years. The looters were made to pay for the losses, which amounted to 280, 000 rupees . The British gazetteer narrates the riots as follows:
“the disturbances then raged for more than a weak, and for some time defied the efforts of the governor, who called in the aid of troops; whole districts were reduced to smoldering heaps of ruins; and business was for some time entirely suspended, a great portion of the city being deserted. The Shias fled in every direction, some seeking safety on the adjacent mountains, while others remained in the city in secret lurking places. Many of the women and children of the Shias found an asylum from the hands of their infuriated co-religionists in the houses of the Hindu portion of the community. When order was at length restored, the ringleaders of the riot were seized and imprisoned, besides hundreds or thousands, it is said, of the poorer inhabitants” .
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