Following Ayodhya, leaders associated with Hindutva are now focusing on a Muslim dargah in Mumbai

Controversy has arisen as Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde declared his intention to “liberate” the 700-year-old Haji Malang dargah, a historic Muslim shrine on the outskirts of Mumbai, exclusively for Hindus. This shrine, renowned for its Sufi heritage and cultural significance, has become a focal point of a heated religious dispute.

Following the inauguration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought substantial “divine” support from his followers for upcoming elections. The next target to amplify this effect is the Sufi shrine, aiming to further polarize voters.

CM Shinde, speaking at the annual Malang-gad Harinam Mahotsav in Thane, broke away from the late Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena to lead a BJP-backed coalition. He expressed his commitment to liberate Malang-gad, stating that he would not rest until he fulfills this promise.

Malang-gad, renowned for its 12th-century shrine of Sufi saint Haji Abdul Rahman, also known as ‘Haji Malang,’ is at the center of conflicting beliefs. According to the Kashmir Media Service, the Haji Malang dargah, situated atop a hill, is believed to house the tomb of an Arab missionary who arrived in India over seven centuries ago. Conversely, Hindus believe the place holds the samadhi of Machindranath, a revered deity in the Nathpanthi sect, later converted into a dargah.

An article published in The Times of India on Feb 14, 1993, details the arrest of Thane’s top Shiv Sena leader, late Anand Dighe, leading an agitation to rename Malang-gad as Shri Malang. Dighe, Mr. Shinde’s mentor, and the promise to liberate Malang-gad symbolize a strategic political move by the chief minister to claim his master’s legacy.

Nasir Khan, chairman of the Peer Haji Malang Saheb Trust, refers to the Gazetteer of Bombay Presidency, which identifies the structure as the shrine built in honor of Arab missionary Haji Abd-ul-Rahman. He questions the Shiv Sena’s claims in the 1980s of it being a Hindu temple, highlighting historical gifts sent by Peshwa kings to the shrine. According to Mr. Khan, Haji Malang is revered by Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Parsis alike, with people from diverse faiths visiting the shrine to seek blessings.

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