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Jammu Massacre: The saint who became a shrine — Part II

Once done with the slaughter in the plains of Jammu in early November 1947, the marauding rioters started moving to the mountains to repeat the carnage. But the kill campaign was shielded by a saint, who eventually fell when plotters and executors came together in the Jammu Massacre’s most dramatic encounter.

As another kill plot unfolded, the rioters regrouped and began moving towards the mountains — where Peer Fateh Shah was seen as a “spiritual shield” for the sizeable native and migrant Muslims.

At his abode, the meditative saint would predict the terrible times ahead. His prophecies made him a doomsayer, yet his spiritual seat at Budhan village of Reasi’s Gool Gulabgarh Tehsil had become a crowded place. It held the anxious Muslim devotes together, like a flock of scared sheep, oblivious of their fate.

Soon as Budhan turned unsafe, Muslims began abandoning their hearth and home. Peer Fateh Shah sent his family to Sadha Village—where they stayed with one Moulana Ahmad Bhat. But his son, Syed Haider Shah wanted to come back to be at his father’s side.

ALSO READ: Jammu Massacre: The saint who became a shrine — Part I

“Once he learned about his son’s change of heart, the saint sent his disciple to push him back,” says Abdul Majeed Bhat, the fact-finder of the event—maintaining an astute storyteller’s stance while narrating one of the unknown accounts of modern history’s most brutal and neglected ethnic cleansing, the Jammu Massacre.

“After receiving a cautionary word, the son left for Pakistan, with tears rolling down his cheeks. He had realised the possible fate of his father.”

The saint shortly left Budhan village, riding on his mare — Neeli. 

But near Chaklas village’s famous fountain, Peer Fateh’s mare abruptly stopped.

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“Despite being commanded by the saint, the mare stood her ground,” Bhat says, recalling the event as explained by a survivor accompanying the saint. “Even as he gave her reins to one of his disciples, the mare didn’t budge.”

Neeli’s reluctance had more to it — perhaps the sign of the soon-to-be-dawned dark hour.

Then, Peer Fateh asked his disciple, ‘Let her take her own course.’

With that, the saint’s mare started moving back to Budhan — then, hardly housing any Muslim.

Refugees from West Punjab, Pakistan arriving in India.

Years later, all this unknown and intriguing narrative would be resurrected, following Bhat’s travel, which led him to come across some surviving Sufis, who were with the saint during his final hours.

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The moment the mare took the saint back to Budhan village, she stopped on the road, leading to Gool.

Neeli maghrib ki jaanib moun karke kadhi hogaye (The saint’s mare stopped towards west),” Bhat was told by one of the saint’s disciples.

In the fascinating world of spirituality—known for mystic powers and extra-sensory perceptions—the mare’s move carried a deep meaning. But what it would be, no one could know, until the rioters began inching closer to the saint.

Peer Fateh Shah took a long tour around the area on the back of his mare, before dismounting and directing his disciples to call the villagers and his own family back to Budhan.

The spot where Neeli had halted was to become the saint’s next stopover.   

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In a nearby abandoned house of his disciple Ghulam Qadir Gojar, the saint decided to stay. He soon called his another disciple Abdul Wahab Turkan and asked him to take Neeli for grazing in the neighbouring village.

At Budhan, the grass was no longer green.

But the mare—apparently sensing the imminent peril—refused to leave the saint. It was then the saint intervened and told her: “This is Allah’s order, Neeli! You must go.”

It’s said that both the saint and his mare bid each other a tearful farewell.

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In between, Peer Fateh Shah’s family members rejoined him at Budhan and soon, a swarm of rioters came, and surrounded the saint’s shelter.  

“With prayers on his lips, he held a whip in one hand and a torch in another,” says Bhat, narrating his research, which has now taken a shape of a paperback. “As one rioter forced his entry inside the home for loot and kill, the saint whipped his neck. He died instantly. His gang outside soon got mobilised and stormed the home with swords and guns.”

As bullets and swords rained, the saint’s woman family member ran through a backdoor and climbed a tree—from where she helplessly watched the carnage. She would later join her brother, with whom she finally came to Kashmir.

ALSO READ: JammuMassacre@70: What it meant to be a Muslim woman in Jammu in 1947

The saint kept fighting back, until a bullet hit his right shoulder and a sword pierced his neck. 

“The saint soon fell down—reciting the Kalima—after a Sten-gun burst hit his belly and chest,” Bhat says. “He finally achieved what he had predicted—his martyrdom.”

His four family members— including his wife Naseem Begum, his daughter Zeenab Begum, her son—along with his five disciples, including Sufi Buland Khan, Sufi Abdul Subhan, and others were also slaughtered.  

The saint’s daughter Shah Begum Ferooza and her son Ashiq Ali managed to run, only to recreate the rattling details of the carnage later.

“The killers soon left with their accomplice’s body and looted wealth,” Bhat says.

Later those dead bodies would be assembled in an open ground. Police came after the mayhem along with a doctor. They took nine days in official formalities. Finally, the doctor refused to send the bodies for a post-mortem, citing their condition.

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They were finally handed over to the locals, who held a discussion on their final resting place. When no consensus was reached, all the bodies were buried at a spot—where the saint’s mare had stopped upon taking him back to Budhan. It was an uncanny event—especially for the saint’s disciples, who soon turned his grave as his shrine.

Today, the saint’s final resting place is visited by thousands of devotees every year. But while Peer Fateh Shah became an immortal after his martyrdom, his killers met such a grisly end that it became the Jammu Massacre’s most horrible aftermath…

 

To be continued…

 

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