Sindh – the land of Sufis – witnessed a series of inter-communal riots and tensions on this eve of recent Holi festival. Just one day before the Holi festival of Hindus, an angry mob of Muslims in Larkana torched a dharamshala and vandalized a nearby temple. The mob was provoked over some alleged charges of blasphemy; they claimed that some Hindu youth had desecrated pages of the Holy Quran. The allegation is yet to be verified. This incident caused panic among the Hindu community and led to cancellation of all Holi festivals and celebrations planned by the panchayats in Sindh. The District Hindu Panchayat (DHP) Hyderabad Chairman M. Parkash Advocate said that the panchayat had planned a mega Holi festival in New City Park, Hyderabad on 16th March 2014, which has been cancelled in solidarity with the sad incident in Larkana. He further said that the DHP has appealed to the government to protect the life and property of the Hindu Community. Likewise, Holi celebrations in other districts, too, were cancelled.
The communal tension expanded to another city, Badin, on 18th march 2014, where emotionally charged protestors took to the streets to express anger over writing of the names of certain revered Islamic figures on a road in a village named Sakhi Usman Shah. The protestors claimed that the colors with which the names were written on road were the same with which the Hindus celebrated the Holi. This led to call for a complete shutdown in New Dumbalo town by protestors. However, no untoward incident was reported during the protest day.
The possibility of an orchestrated plan by the extremist elements behind such ugly episodes cannot be ruled out especially because of the timing of the incident. It appears that these incidents were planned in order to stop the Hindu community from celebrating Holi festival. Hindu community is demanding thorough probe into the incidents to bring the culprits to justice. Various sections of the civil society in Sindh has widely condemned the sad incident of Larkana and registered their protest.
However, despite the tensions and fears, Saif Samejo – the front man of the rock band The Sketches – who along with his team brought together youth from diverse backgrounds together at Lahooti Music Aashram to celebrate Holi in Hyderabad. Through their performance and jubilant celebration of colors, they have conveyed a message of courage and solidarity in such times. It also shows how youth can play a positive role in promoting interfaith harmony.
For centuries, Holi – a festival of spring, colors and happiness – has been celebrated peacefully in Sindh. It is saddening the way the centuries old tradition of interfaith harmony is being gradually undermined. The efforts by civil society to show solidarity and spread awareness regarding such incidents is encouraging but these efforts will go a long way in bringing back the true spirit of Sufi culture of Sindh.