By Nazmus Saquib
“Al Haj Hazrat Zakir Shah – a 50 year old self declared ‘peer (religious leader)’ is doing business cashing on the religious sentiment of the people”, — alleged a resident of city’s Faramgate when this reporter was talking with a group of local people to enquire about the activities of the mysterious Kutub Bagh Darbar Sharif which is situated at the Indira Road in Dhaka’s Faramgate area. While talking with Amin, a murid (follower) of Zakir, some startling information shocked this reporter. “We (the followers of Zakir) believe he is a real ‘peer’ who should be followed because if someone like him guides us, then we have nothing to worry in the after life. He will take us to the path of Zannat (heaven)” said a confident Amin. When this reporter asked him about the number of followers his ‘peer’ has, a proud Amin said, “Our peer shahib has thousands of admirers at home and abroad. He has three darbar sharifs across the country. His first darbar sharif was built twenty five years ago in Narayanganj. Another one was built in about fifteen years ago in Mymensingh. Finally he has built this ten storied darbar sharif in Faramgate for the convenience of his followers in Dhaka. I think no other peer has such huge numbers of followers in the country.”
The followers of Zakir blindly believe him. They believe their beloved peer, who is often referred as ‘baba (father)’ has got spiritual power from peer sahib Hazrat Moulana Kutub Uddin Khan Matwaili of Matwail. Zakir was born in the village Kalgachhi of Narayanganj and studied there up till Class Eight. However his followers never questioned him about his knowledge because of their intense faith on his ‘spiritual’ power. They believe Zakir so much so that they donate all their earnings for the sake of their beloved ‘baba.’ “Baba needs money for spreading his religious works and hence we donate money to him” said one of his followers wishing anonymity. He further said, “Baba never used our donated money for his personal happiness. He has built a darbar on a 40-bigha stretch of land in Trishal of Mymensingh. Moreover he has also built a darbar on 12-bigha plot of land in Narayanganj. Besides this Kutub Bagh Darbar Sharif in faramgate has been made on a five katha plot. This ten storied building itself signifies the popularity of baba”
Although the followers of Zakir have immense faith on him, but while talking with some local residents near Kutub Bagh Darbar Sharif, this reporter got some negative feedbacks. “Our area (farmgate) has turned into an area of fraud ‘peers.’ There is another ‘peer’ called ‘Laal Fakir’ who is doing this same illegal business. However this Kutub Bagh ‘peer’ is more cunning. He has got the blessings of home minister Shahara Khatun who is also his follower. Every year this ‘peer’ is organizing three day long Urs (religious programme) where lakhs of takas are wasted. Nobody ever questioned him how he earned this money” said Monir Hossain, a school teacher. Talking in synch with Monir, another local resident wishing anonymity said, “This so called ‘peer’ is very influential. If we speak something against him, his followers will make our life miserable. Police even act as mere onlookers when they violate the traffic rules during their weekly Zalsha (religious gatherings held on every Thursday). They use loudspeakers and their followers create chaos occupying large portions of streets. Our children can not study here on Thursday.”
Preparations are going on in full swing for the upcoming annual Urs Sharif (religious programme) to be held later this month. The followers of Zakir are busy collecting donations by temporarily erected donation ‘camp.’ One such donation camp was spotted by this reporter.
When we were about to take photo, the followers quickly disappeared. This reporter also wanted to go inside the Kutub Bagh Darbar Sharif to talk with Zakir. But his followers prevented us. “You have to be a ‘murid’ first if you want to talk with baba” said one of his followers.
Photos are taken by the writer