Borhras and reform
Dawoodi Bohras - Borhras and reform

When Sayedna finally came to Udaipur

The visit of Sayedna Muhammad Burhanuddin to Udaipur in March 1999 was a milestone for the Bohra reform movement for reasons more than one. The Kothar has tried every trick up its sleeve to break the reform movement specially in Udaipur.

In its initial phases it let loose a reign of terror on the supporters of the reform movement or popularly known as the Bohra Youth Movement in Udaipur. The story of Kothar's terror against reformists is an hair-raising one.

What the Catholic Church did to followers of Martin Luther in medieval ages, the Kothar is doing to the reformist Bohras. The reign of terror continued for almost a quarter of a century. Yet the reformists, with few exceptions, remained firm and did not yield to Kothar's pressures. The reformist Bohras both under the leadership of the Bohra Youth as well as Central Board of Dawoodi Bohra Community could be justly proud of their firmness and unflinching resolve.

The Central Board of Dawoodi Bohra Community, a world-wide body of the reformist Bohras, made all possible efforts to take the movement in different corners of the world. It was also instrumental in taking support of leading human rights organisations and prominent academics all over the world. It was Citizens' for Democracy, a leading human rights organisation from India which set up the famous Nathwani Commission to inquire into the violations of human rights of Bohras. Again a second commission was set up in the early nineties by CFD and Indian People's Human Rights' Commission headed by Justice Tewatia appointed another commission which also completed its hearing and produced its report.

Various world conferences organised by the Central Board brought many eminent citizens from different walks of life on its platform and got their support. Thus the reformists had ears in all sections of people including bureaucracy and Government. Also, we could take our cause to almost all major universities in India, U.K., USA, Canada, Germany, Thailand. Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt, Lebanon and several other countries. Thus we could win over a sizeable section of the academic community. This completely demoralised the Kothar which was forced to change its tactics.

Now the Kothar tried to break the reform movement, especially in Udaipur, by tactical manoeuvres. It threw a bait and unfortunately some people walked into it. But, thanks to Allah, it is an insignificant minority. What were these new tactics? It sent its representative to Udaipur to throw the bait. Now the supporters of Bohra Youth, he declared, can visit Galiakot for ziyarat. Though many were against visiting Galiakot without thorough discussion with Central Board, some insisted and went where they were treated well. It was a trap. This paved the way for the Sayedna to visit Udaipur and try to break the movement from inside. The reformists of course, decided their own strategy.

In its meeting in Ahmedabad on November 10, 1997 the Central Executive Committee decided to enter into talks with Kothar only if the talks were between the authorised representatives from both sides and duely signed by them so that no one goes back on one's commitment. Also, it was made clear that there is no question of compromise on principles i.e.

  • Freedom of individual in secular affairs
  • Democratic elections of local jamaats without interference from Kothar
  • Accountability on the part of the Sayedna for the funds collected from the community
  • Scrapping of misaaq and raza which are in no way integral part of Isma‘ili faith

The reformists, it was made clear in the meeting, are prepared to talk only on these conditions. A High Power Committee was also constituted in Ahmedabad to meet and take decisions in the event of negotiations or other developments.

The High Power Committee met subsequently in Udaipur on Ist March and reviewed the situation. It was then that the Sayedna's visit to Udaipur was announced. The Committee held a wider meeting of reformists and constituted a core committee to handle the situation during the visit of the Sayedna and also established a control room to be manned by members of the core committee to counter rumors and constituted a volunteer force to contact people in Udaipur and explain the official position so that reformists are not misled in anyway.

These measures worked well and Kothar's attempt to break the movement from within came a cropper. What is more important to note is that some insiders' attempt to persuade people to go and give misaaq was a miserable failure. While they were boasting that more than 60% reformists will go and give misaaq, less than1% people went in Kothar's fold. The Central Board thus salutes the determination of the people of Udaipur to resist all allurements of the Kothar and remain steadfast in their resolve.

We reassure all our supporters that the reform movement has not been weakened a bit by the developments in Udaipur. The Kothar is totally frustrated today. Its miserable failure to entice away reformists in Udaipur is a slap on its face. Let it know, if it wants to know sincerely, that unless it ends its repressive regime and abandons oppressive instruments like raza and misaaq, there is no question of any settlement. Any settlement has to be honourable and dignified.

After all, the reformists are fighting for fundamental principles which cannot be compromised. The Kothar has to restore original spirit of the sacrifices of the Ah al-Bayt and Fatimi Da'wah. The holy Prophet (PBUH) and his family made great sacrifices and suffered in every way to keep the principles of Islam aloft. The Kothar has given up all these principles and lives in utter luxury killing the very spirit of religion.