The Gujarat High Court on Friday dismissed a petition moved by a group of Muslims, seeking permission to once again take tazia procession to the disputed site of 14th century Sufi saint Imamshah shrine at Pirana village on the outskirts of city. Once hailed as an embodiment of communal harmony, this Sufi shrine over the years has turned into a communal flashpoint between the Hindus and the Muslims.
The petitioners had sought court’s direction to Ahmedabad rural police to allow tazia from the traditional route after it was discontinued in 2003 following communal tensions. It was argued by the petitioners that “considering the religious feeling and trend” the permission should be granted.
The traditional tazia procession used to start from the nearby Imambada, and then entered the shrine from where it would pass through another shrine and proceed towards Pirana village, before returning to the shrine. In 2003, however, Imambada and the dargah were separated by a barbed fencing. The new route does not allow the procession to enter the dargah.
According to the petitioners, every year police deny them permission for taking the traditional route, citing law and order problem, and refer to opinions of the six Hindu trustees of the shrine that the old route would create communal tension.
The shrine is run by Imamshah Bawa Roza Trust, which has nine trustees — six Hindus and three Muslims. The Hindu followers are known as Satpanthi. The three Muslim trustees — who are Saiyeds — claim to be direct descendants of the saint and that they are being cornered by the majority Hindu trustees.
During the argument, the petitioners’ lawyer argued that “police merely go by the trustees version. It can’t be taken on face value that only during the month of Muharram the threat of breach of peace prevails. The site has been hosting scores of events since 2003 and no untoward incident took place.” The petitioners also said that past judgments by the court has categorically stated that police should apply its own mind.
Single bench of Justice Paresh Upadhyay, however, dismissed the petition following a brief argument. He stated: “This court finds that no fundamental right has been violated. The prayer that tazia procession should be taken out from a particular route can’t be accepted. No relief granted.” During the court proceeding public prosecutor Mitesh Amin informed the court that police have granted permission for the procession from the new route.
The Imamshah’s shrine has been a matter of dispute between the Hindus and the Muslims, with each community claiming propriety over it. Over the years, the Hindu trustees have brought several changes, such as changing its name to “samadhi” of “Sadguru Imam Shah Maharaj”, claiming that he was a “Hindu”.