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Posted at: May 18, 2015, 12:51 AM; last updated: May 18, 2015, 12:39 AM (IST)

Shia seminary helped PDP gain foothold in Kargil

Impact of Islamic School

  • Islamia School, a Shia seminary is one of the two influential religious institutions that have altered the voting patterns in Kargil
  • Established more than 60 years ago, the seminary has been a cornerstone for any political party attempting to establish a hold over the mountainous district
  • Islamic School president Aga Syed Jamal Jamal describes Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed as a politician who “never lies”. “Everyone else betrayed and lied to Kargil. The National Conference did it the most,” he said
  • Since its formation in 1999, Kargil had remained out of bounds for the PDP. However, in 2014, the PDP nominated Haji Inayat Ali who had served as the president of Islamia School’s youth wing as its candidate for the Kargil constituency. Even though Ali finished second in the election, he won an unprecedented vote share for the PDP
Shia seminary helped PDP gain foothold in Kargil

Islamic School, a Shia seminary, in Kargil town. A tribune photo

Azhar Qadri

Tribune News Service

Kargil, May 17

Islamia School, a Shia seminary, is an unusual powerhouse in Kargil and its overt backing for Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Peoples Democratic Party has helped the ruling party establish a foothold in this remote and rugged district.

The seminary is one of the two influential religious institutions that have altered the voting patterns in Kargil, a sparsely populated district located over 200 km from Srinagar and separated by the majestic snow-bound Himalyan mountain range.

Islamic School’s ageing president Aga Syed Jamal, who has spent 10 years in Iraq’s Najaf city studying religion, is aware of the influence he wields in Kargil, the district which remains cut-off from the world for six months every year.

Jamal makes no attempt to hide or undermine his school’s influence in Kargil, where India fought Pakistani troops and irregulars to recapture mountain-top posts in its last war in 1999.

The seminary, established more than 60 years ago, has been a cornerstone for any political party attempting to establish a hold over Kargil.

When the seminary first began to “indirectly” influence political events, it had supported the Congress party. Years later, it switched support to the National Conference and is now helping the PDP.

Jamal said the reason for backing PDP was Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, whom he had known since the days when both were associated with the Congress party.

“Mufti’s last tenure (as Chief Minister from 2002-2005) was better than everyone else. He brought development to Kargil,” Jamal told The Tribune at his modest home in Minji village, 10 km outside the Kargil town.

The village is ringed by towering peaks and nestled on the edge of gushing Suru river. Jamal sits inside his home in a room decorated with pictures of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, the two Prime Ministers who had visited Islamia School as an acknowledgment of its clout.

Jamal describes Mufti Sayeed as a politician who “never lies”. “Everyone else betrayed and lied to Kargil. The National Conference did it the most,” Jamal said.

The camaraderie shared by Mufti Sayeed and Jamal helped the PDP establish a foothold in Kargil as Islamia School openly announced its support to the party during the last year’s Assembly elections.

Since its formation in 1999, Kargil had remained out of bounds for the PDP. The remote district had overwhelmingly voted for the Congress and National Conference candidates in the previous elections, often favouring those supported by the Islamia School.

However, in 2014, the PDP nominated Haji Inayat Ali who had served as the president of Islamia School’s youth wing as its candidate for the Kargil constituency. Even though Ali finished second in the election, he won an unprecedented vote share for the PDP.

“The PDP’s sudden rise in Kargil would have been difficult but people changed their perception when Islamia School announced support for its candidate,” said Jamal.

Ali was later elected as the Member of Legislative Council and made its chairman, which has further helped PDP in Kargil. “We never expected that someone from Kargil will become chairman of the Legislative Council. He may now help bring in development,” said Altaf Hussain, a resident of Kargil’s Sankoo village.

The PDP’s alliance with Islamia School and its position in Kargil got further strengthened when Kachoo Ahmad Ali Khan, a member of Islamia School and former Chief Executive Councillor of Kargil’s autonomous development council, joined the party last month.

Many residents and politicians in Kargil acknowledge that the seminary’s backing was instrumental for the PDP’s growth in the remote district.

Ghulam Raza, a leader of the Congress party in Kargil, who had independently contested the parliamentary election losing by a margin of 36 votes, said PDP’s rise would diminish the role of the National Conference in the region and would have lesser impact on his party which has the support of a rival Shia group.

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