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Friday, June 24, 2011

Dawoodi Bohras: The iron grasp of the high priest!

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Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 26, Dated 02 July 2011.

Dawoodi Bohras have always been known for their business gene. But few know they are being choked by a tyrannical and all-powerful religious head. Anumeha Yadav reports how every attempt to rein him in is crushed.

THE BOHRA Muslims have always been read through a dominant stereotype: their capacity for business. That’s probably one reason why even chief minister Narendra Modi has found it convenient to reach out to them as part of his PR measures to improve his scoreboard with Muslims in Gujarat. But few Indians would know that the Dawoodi Bohras have been living with — and fighting — deeply suffocating customs under the regime of their spiritual head, the 100-year old Syedna Mohamed Burhanuddin.

This story is not a new one. Three decades ago, the Janata Party-led government in Gujarat allowed the Nathwani Commission, set up by then PM Morarji Desai, to examine complaints of civil rights violations by the Syedna. But even after 1979, when the commission published its findings, the priest and his family have continued to wield overwhelming power over the community through the threats of baraat (community boycott), of denying ruqo chitthi (a letter obtained from the Syedna at a hefty sum so that the dead may enter heaven) and seven kinds of taxes arbitrarily levied on all, including foetuses.

This February, when the Syedna turned 100, one of his seven sons, Huzefa Mohiuddin, walked in for the celebrations in Ahmedabad with Chief Minister Narendra Modi and BJP leaders Vijay Rupani, Asit Vohra and Jayanti Barot. Inside the brightly- lit hall, Mohiuddin praised governance in ‘vibrant Gujarat’. Modi related anecdotes about his closeness with the Syedna over the years. Cell phone cameras clicked. Jointly holding the knife, Modi and Mohiuddin cut a cake to chants of Allaho- Akbar, and congratulated each other.



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