ROHRI: The urs celebrations for Sadaruddin Shah Badshah took an ugly turn when devotees held a rally to condemn alleged police harassment on Tuesday.
The three-day anniversary celebrations started on Monday with the provincial minister for Auqaf Abdul Haseeb laying a wreath at the saint’s grave.
Devotees complained that their drivers were being harassed by traffic policemen appointed at the entry points of the city. The police officers were extorting money from the followers in order to let them park their cars closer to the shrine.
The shrine is located in the middle of a river between Sukkur and Rohri. People have to travel across a bridge to the island. Usually heavy vehicles are prohibited from using the bridge but bribes can go a long way. Many complained that the police were allowing all kinds of vehicles to park right up to the shrine in exchange for Rs200 to Rs300.
Protesting the behaviour of the Sukkur district police, dozens of people staged a demonstration at Kabeyri Chowk. Lala Rahat Cheema, Abdul Rauf Gujjar, Pervez Gujjar and others also accused traffic policemen of bothering drivers unnecessarily. They make up rules and harass people till they cough up some money, the devotees complained. They demanded the Sukkur DPO carry out an inquiry into the matter and take action against officials found involved in corruption.
While the drivers were busy fending off the white-uniformed cops, pickpockets filled whatever space was left.
They managed to make off with hundreds of rupees and mobile phones. Since the area of the shrine is quite small and the crowds large, the hubbub makes it easy for nimble fingers to do their dirty work.
Firecrackers added to the confusion at the celebrations and many people were given a fright because they went off at close range. Although the Sukkur DCO banned the use of firecrackers, women and children were persistently frightened by the mini-explosions.
Hundreds of people from across Sindh and Punjab made their way to the shrine of Saddurddin Shah.
The shrine has special significance because it is said that the famous saint, Lal Shahbaz Qalander, spent 40 days here.
Thousands of Lal Shahbaz’s followers first pay their respects at Saddurdin’s grave and then move on to the Punjab, where the urs celebrations for him begin. People continue to visit Saddurdin’s shrine even after his urs comes to an end. Those followers who are unable to make the journey to Rohri before Lal Shahbaz’s urs make it a point to visit Saddurdin’s shrine afterwards.
Celebrations include dhol and dhamal. Entry points to the city and shrine are decorated with flowers and streamers, however, since most of the followers just come and stay for a few hours no special living arrangements have been made. Food stalls and free water and milk sabeels have also been set up.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2010.
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