Dispute Over Burial Of Local Saint's Descendant Continues

When the family moved the body to the shrine for burial, a mob gathered and prevented them from doing so, police has deemed the conflict a dispute over the shrine

Dispute Over Burial Of Local Saint's Descendant Continues

A dispute has emerged over the burial place of a descendant of a local saint, with the deceased's family claiming they have the right to bury him in the courtyard of the saint's shrine,  but their claim has been contested by a group of locals with police alleged to be taking sides.

Relatives of Syed Javed Iqbal Gillani said they are the descendants of local saint Syed Abbas Ali Shah Gillani. They added that their family came to the village of Merajkay in Pasrur Tehsil of Sialkot over 140 years ago in 1885. Following the saint's passing, his family has been custodians of his shrine since 1931. At the time, they said, the village was called 'Maharajkay' in official documents because it was a predominantly Hindu village. The village was renamed after Partition.

Recently, the great-grandson of Gillani, Javed Iqbal, who used to live in Daska, passed away. Per his will, his family took his body to the shrine for burial.

However, a mob gathered, which obstructed them and allegedly spread 'religious hatred' against the family using fabricated allegations.

The family claimed that the group was allegedly led by Ashfaq Lal Din, his brother Rizwan, and his aide Ahmed Omer, along with a few others, opposed them.

When the family went to the police, asking them to intervene, the police allegedly attempted to first brush it under the carpet, citing the need to maintain law and order. When the family insisted on its complaint, the police allegedly lodged a one-sided, misleading case, which obfuscated the facts to complicate matters.

"We have failed to get justice from the local authorities who declined to take action [against the miscreants] on the pretext that it will create a law and order situation," cried Waqar Gillani, the son of Syed Javed Iqbal Gillani.

The family claimed they have the relevant records which prove the possession of the shrine with the family and that they were the rightful custodians of the shrine. They claimed that for the past 23 years, the deceased was the legal custodian of the shrine and that his claim remained unchallenged in his lifetime. They added that they also had evidence of the mob's actions, but the police were reluctant to take action.

They claimed that the actions of the mob were a clear violation of the National Action Plan (NAP) set up to counter terrorism and extremism.

"If the district administration says they cannot act against religious hatred and fabricated sectarianism with ulterior motives, then from whom should we seek justice?" he asked.

They further alleged that due to the inaction of the police and the local administration, they continue to be harassed by the elements involved in stopping them from the burial.

The family urged the senior civil, military and judicial officers apart from the provincial government to take notice of the matter, ensure justice, and fully commit to countering religious extremism in society.

"The state has to fulfil its commitment to counter terrorism and extremism in society, to promote peace and tolerance, and we hope the country's top authorities would help us," he hoped.

Meanwhile, the district police dismissed the incident as a dispute over control of the shrine.

"The matter is under review by the district intelligence committee (DIC), and has referred it to the home department with reports from all concerned departments," said Sialkot District Police Officer Hassan Iqbal. 
He added that the complainant may also refer to the revenue warrants, which are required since the matter involves the district land revenue office.

Asked about the sectarian element Waqar referred to in his complaint, DPO Iqbal said that the issue has been referred to the district intelligence committee for appropriate action. 

The officer, however, did not describe the action taken/recommended by the authorities against the alleged miscreants.