Azadari Movement in Lucknow
Lucknow is known as a seat of Shiasm and the epitome of Shia culture. Muharram which is observed in Lucknow is famous worldwide. The processions of Muharram in Lucknow have a special significance. They were started during the reign of the Awadh Nawabs. The Majalises, processions and other rituals that are observed by the Shia community to commemorate the sacrifice of Imam Husain A.S. are known as Azadari.
The processions like Shahi Zarih, Jaloos-e-Mehndi, Alam-e-Ashura and that of Chup Tazia have special significance for Shia community, which are taken out with great religious zeal and fervour. These processions which started during the reign of the Awadh Nawabs continued till the year 1977.
Processions Banned The first problem regarding Azadari started in the year 1906. Communal riots took place in the years 1968, 1969, 1974 and 1977. The Government of Uttar Pradesh banned the Azadari processions in the year 1977. The Shia community from time to time has been constantly protesting against the ban imposed on Azadari. Many memoranda were sent to the Government regarding the ban but to no avail. The system of courting arrest was also started later by the late Maulana Syed Kalbe Abid in which thousands of Shias courted arrest on the 10th of Muharram every year, at the Imambara Asifi in the protest of this ban.
Self Immolation On the 10th of April 1997 under the banner of “Karvane Furat” the Shias sat on a hunger strike to press their demands and attract the attention of the Government but the effort was in vain. Having been irked by the attitude of the Government and seeing that no other option was left for the community, three Shia youth committed self immolation on 13th of April 1997 at Dargah Hazrat Abbas (A.S.), Mohd. Abbas (24 years), Yusuf (38 years) committed self- immolation. They breathed their last on 16th April 1997 in Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi. On April 16th another Shia youth, Ishrat Altaf, committed self immolation and passed away.
Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad Arrested Noted Shia religious scholar of India Maulana Dr. Syed Kalbe Sadiq called on the community to observe a Peace March on the 18th of April, 1997. A march was scheduled from Imambara Asifi to Imambara Husainabad in which more than two hundred thousand Shias along with other Ulama participated. Imam Bukhari of Shahi Jami Masjid in Delhi showed his interest in negotiating the vexed Azadari issue and was expected to arrive in Lucknow on the 31st May 1997. On 3rd June he was arrested on the outskirts of the city. Along with him noted Shia Ulama, the Imam-e-Juma of Masjid Asafi, Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad and Sunni Ulama late Maulana Qamar Minai were arrested for organising a meeting and defying Section 144 I.P.C.
On hearing of their leader’s arrest, the Shias stormed the Vidhan Sabha(the provincial assembly of Uttar Pradesh state) and performed Matam. The Government Uttar Pradesh seeing the situation going out of hand was forced to release the leaders without further delay.
Shia’s Decisive Battle
Police mercilessly beat Shias including women and children on 8th June 1997 in Muftiganj in the Alam procession. Upon knowing of this incident Maulana Kalbe Jawad called an emergency meeting of about 115 Shia Anjumans(associations) of the city. At the meeting it was unanimously decided that if the government did not lift the ban on Azadari by 24th june 1997 (18th Safar) the Shias would defy the ban and take out the Alam procession on the 26th of June 1997. The Administration and the government did nothing they imposed a curfew in the city on the night of 26th June 1997. The Chief Minister Ms. Mayawati issued a strict warning to the Shia community that any attempt to take out Alam procession would force the government to deal strongly with them.
The police sealed all the Shia dominated localities but ultimately Shia’s defied the curfew.The Government to save itself from an embarrassment transferred the then District Magistrate of Lucknow and issued the order for the arrest of Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad under National Security Act (NSA).The Administration on the 28th of June 1997 at 4:00 a.m. arrested Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad. He was sent to Lalitpur Jail while his family was incarcerated with the prisoners of TADA. News spread like wildfire in the city and the people again break the curfew. The police mercilessly beat them up. Shia women stormed District Magistrate residence and protested there. Shia youth performed matam at the Vidhan Sabha.People from other parts of the country also started lending their support to the Azadari Movement. There were also various protests and agitations reported from the different parts of the country against the arrest of Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad. Indian Shias residing in New York, Syria, Pakistan, Iran and other countries also protested against the Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad’s arrest.The situation went out of control and the Government was left with no other option but to release Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad. Finally he was released on the 8th of July, 1997.
Ban Lifted The Government assured the Shias that the Azadari procession problem would be looked into and solved in three months time and asked for all agitations and protest to be postponed till then.The Shias did so. Upon the expiry of the period of 3 months the matter was not solved and Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad decided again to defy the ban on Azadari on 27th of September. The Administration, finally held rounds of talks between Shias and Sunnis. The Shias were successful in taking out the first Azadari procession in January 1998 (21 Ramzan) with the permission of the Government. Today the Shias have been given nine processions out of nine hundred that are registered in the festival register of the Shias.