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Nizamuddin Basti – An Example of Communal Harmony

Within the congested and narrow lanes crowded with bearded men and women in burqa, I came across house no. 165, Gali Gadariyewali. There I got to see Omprakash the head of the family sitting in his grocery shop with a happy and smiling face dealing with the customers who were all Muslims.

In a country which is torn apart by the beliefs of fundamentalists and religious radicals, it’s good to see a little hope once in a while. The words ‘communal tension’ keep surfacing in the news, but what we really need to see is some communal harmony. We do witness moments of unity and brotherhood between the Hindus and Muslims in India. The story I am going to narrate unfolds one of these experiences.

There is a richness hidden in the gallis of Nizamuddin Basti. Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin, a 14th century village grew around the shrine of the Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. This pilgrim destination has always been a predominantly Muslim urban village, filled with congested and narrow lanes, scattered tombstones, overcrowded market and mosques. But within this predominant Muslim village resides a Hindu family. I tried to discover the world within the basti by visiting the Hindu family, who is residing there from past 60 years.

Within the congested and narrow lanes crowded with bearded men and women in burqa, I came across house no. 165, Gali Gadariyewali. There I got to see Omprakash the head of the family sitting in his grocery shop with a happy and smiling face dealing with the customers who were all Muslims.

Seeing him one  could not make out any difference in his attitude towards Muslim people. There I had interaction with his neighbors Aslam, Saddan and Intezar who run their shops beside his house. They seemed to be very friendly with Omprakash . Omprakash guided me the way to his house upstairs and there I met his family. The female members of the family were busy getting ready for a birthday celebration in the neighborhood. A child named Saud was taking tuition from the youngest daughter of the family. I also came across Sarita Pal, wife of Omprakash’s brother Kanhaiya Lal. She is a health social worker at Hope Project Nizamuddin for the past 23 years, again an organization led by Muslims.

While talking to her many a times she mentioned that they never had a feeling of fear living in a Muslim dominated community. They have never faced any problem in sharing their social space with Muslims. The environment around the community is quite healthy, happy and friendly. “Sarkari mudde ladwate hain”, she said while talking about the current situation of religious extremism and politics. They consider themselves as part of the community as they have never felt that they have been segregated in the community. Talking about the young generation of the family she said that they have a whole lot of of Muslim friends as they are living in the community since the time they were born and they haven’t felt any difference between a Hindu and a Muslim. Be it schools, colleges, sports or late night studies they always stick together without any discrimination and without any radical thought, a pleasant surprise considering the facts that more feeling of extremism is seen in the young generation.

Meanwhile Sarita’s daughter in law also had a view point that although they don’t feel any segregation, at times, during festivals like Holi they feel themselves separated from the community as very few people get involve in the celebration. Taking the conversation further she said they also don’t go to their neighborhood during Bakrid celebration but at the same time they are also not against the slaughtering of animals during the festival time. The only reason why they maintain distance during Bakrid is that they are pure vegetarians.

I also accompanied Sarita to Hope Project, where she works as a health social worker. There I interacted with her colleagues and doctors who were all Muslims.  She is one of the oldest worker at Hope oundation. Given the fact that she is a Hindu, people there  treat her with same respect and honor as any other Muslim.  She also pointed out the fact that since she is working whole day at Hope Project she gets very little time to go and interact with the people of her neighborhood, although the male members of the family are very good friends with the neighborhood people. Sarita said “unlogon ka subah sham ka uthna baithana hai sath me. The male members are more familiar with each other because mostly female members of both Muslims and Hindu families are busy with their household work”. She also said that it was a sort of tradition that didn’t allow female members to go to neighbour’s house until and unless there was any get together. “But no doubt, during such occasions people from Muslim community give us a special treatment. We are given extra care for food at any such occasion,” she said. In the end she said that everybody must  have their own right to choose whatever they eat. And one must not impose their opinions on others just because they are from a different school of thought  or different religion.

In this era of extremism where we frequently come across religious tensions especially between Hindus and Muslims in our country, there lives a community who is setting an example of brotherhood and peace without any conflicts.

In the end, I would suggest that many such hidden stories should be discovered by people rather than focusing on unseen news and reacting on them without any proper knowledge. In contemporary India such stories are very much needed.

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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