Syed Ahmad Syed, known as Imam Hai, is leading prayers at the historic Jamia Masjid since 1963. He is a witness to major political developments in Kashmir. In a freewheeling conversation with Greater Kashmir Senior editor, Zahir ud Din, he throws light on some historical events, bringing to fore some unknown facts
On Mirwaiz Maulana Yusuf Shah
The Imam holds Mirwaiz Yusuf Sahib in high esteem. "He was a scholar par excellence. He was simple, honest and sober. He never accepted gifts from his followers," he said. "The Mirwaiz became disgruntled as he spent time in Pakistan. When he (Mirwaiz) went for Hajj Pilgrimage, he met Noor Sahib Indrabi there. He gave him a letter for Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. He had urged Sheikh Sahib to work for azadi. The people at the helm in Pakistan somehow came to know about the contents of the letter, Mirwaiz had to pay a price for it. His stipend was stopped and the Mirwaiz lived from hand to mouth," he said. The letter, according to the Imam read: "I have tasted hospitality of Pakistan and you have tasted Indian democracy. Let us both work for Independent Kashmir. If we fail in this, then we will work for Jammu Kashmir's accession to Pakistan." He could not, however, comment on Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah's response to the Mirwaiz's letter.
About the Holy Relic
On identification of Holy Relic, Syed Sahib gave a somewhat vague answer. He said: "Syed Meerak Shah identified the Relic. He was a sage and sages love the people. Ahmadullah Makai, a close associate of Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah Sahib has told me that the Relic was brought from
Kalashpora Shrine." It is in place to mention here that Late Sanaullah Bhat, Editor Aftaab has questioned the process of identification of the Relic.
On Mirwaiz Moulana Farooq
Syed Sahib is all praise for slain Mirwaiz, Moulana Farooq Sahib. "He was a very bold, and a mature politician. It is our misfortune that he was killed at the early stage of the struggle," he said. "I have seen two bold men in Kashmir. One was Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and the second was Moulana Farooq," he said. The Imam perhaps was the first person to foresee dangers surrounding the Mirwaiz in the 1990s. "I urged him to accept government security. He refused. I also phoned the then home minister of India, Mufti Muhammad Sayed and requested him to take the Moulana into custody. However, he replied his arrest would trigger clashes in Srinagar. Late Moulvi Mushtaq also phoned the authorities and requested them to arrest the Mirwaiz. His request too was ignored. When nothing matured, I requested the Mirwaiz to shift to Rajouri Kadal for some time. He considered this and shifted from his Nigeen residence but only for a while," he said.
On Mufti Muhammad Sayed
On his association with Mufti Muhammad Sayed, he said: "Mufti Sayed was posted as a teacher of Arabic in Banihal. I was sent as his reliever. This joining-relieving took almost a week and during that period Mufti stayed with the Imam.
On Mirwaiz's Assassination
On May 21, 1990 I was informed that the Mirwaiz had been shot at and was rushed to SKIMS. I also reached the hospital only to find Mirwaiz's followers ransacking the hospital. I addressed the people and accused Jagmohan and Mufti Sayed for the murder. "Let us take the slain Mirwaiz to Mirwaiz Manzil at Rajouri Kadal. We will investigate
and expose the murderers," I told the mourners. "This somewhat pacified them and the journey to Mirwaiz Manzil commenced. I was in the vehicle that carried the Mirwaiz's body. However, the vehicle was intercepted by two gunmen who told me to accompany them. On way to Jenab Sahib Soura they told me that the authorities wanted to arrest me. I was further told to avoid the arrest to handle the situation that was emerging in Srinagar especially in Down Town," he revealed. The Imam said that the gunmen saved him from getting killed in the massacre near Islamia College. Pertinent to mention, the CRPF stationed at Islamia College opened fire on the funeral procession killing at least fifty people on the spot. It is believed that Mirwaiz's body was also hit by several bullets. The Mirwaiz, he said, had a great liking for him. "We would often discuss things, and at times I would oppose his decisions. He would listen silently and then present arguments. I opposed his association with Janata Party. It was a blunder," he said.
On Mirwaiz Umar Farooq
He refuses to compare Mirwaiz Umer Farooq to his father. "There is simply no comparison. Umar Sahib has to go a long way to achieve that stature," he said.
On Stone Pelting
The elderly Imam has severely opposed stone pelting. "The stone pelting gives the troops and the police an excuse to storm the historic Jamia Masjid. And it has not taken us anywhere," he made clear.
On Indo-Pak Relations
He rules out Indo-Pak war. "It is not that easy. I see no possibility of a war between India and Pakistan at least not for the time being," he said. "However, a solution will come out from negotiations between India and Pakistan. India will be forced to talk if we boycott the elections completely. They cannot impose Governor's rule or President's rule for ever. Some day they will agree to come to the negotiating table," he hopes.
The Imam Hai is without passport. The authorities have withheld it. "I am not pressing for it now. I had sought judicial intervention. The court directed the concerned to issue me a passport. However, the CID people opposed it," he said.
The Imam's family has been leading the prayers in Jamia Masjid since Budshah's times. The first Imam Hai from the family was Molvi Ahmad Shah. " I was taken to the Jamia by close associates of Mirwaiz Yusuf Sahib, Ahmadullah Makai and Ghulam Ahmad Naqash in 1963," he shared.