Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bajrang Wadi remains oasis of calm in a riot-torn town

SECULAR AND IN THE FACE: Devi Mata Temple and Motipura mosque share the same wall


Mandir, masjid stand next to each other, Hindu and Muslim families observe prayer code daily

Nitin Yeshwantrao and Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Undoubtedly, it is a proud symbol of harmony in strife-torn Malegaon. The Devi Mata Mandir and the century-old Motipura Masjid, which stand next to each other, bring Hindus and Muslims in Bajrang Wadi together for celebrations of Id and Diwali.

The respect and reverence shown to each other’s faith is complete. Care is taken to ensure that the timings of bhajans and evening prayers in the temple do not clash with the namaaz. At the time of the azaan (the muezzin’s call to the faithful for prayers), temple officials shut down their speakers and refrain from playing the cymbals and the drums.

Even in these communally charged times, Bajrang Wadi seems far removed from the turbulence in the powerloom town. A constant stream of devotees continues to make its way to the temple everyday for evening rituals and bhajans, often passing in front of the mosque; on the other side, the crowd gathers at five different times of the day to offer namaaz.

“It is a sort of an unwritten and unspoken understanding between both the communities. We have ourselves framed the code of conduct and each one takes adequate care not to breach this code. Just in front of the masjid a Ganesh pandal is erected. But our Hindu brothers make sure that there is no cymbals chanting and drum-beating when we offer namaaz. There is proper understanding and it has worked well all these years,’’ said Fazalur Rahman Almohammadi, a local journalist.

Such is the cooperation and trust between the two communities that during the reconstruction of the temple about a year ago, water used for all the works came from the masjid. Rather than order tanker water, temple authorities found it convenient as the masjid had a well inside.

Hafeez Jamal, another resident and a regular at the Motipura masjid, said despite the several communal disturbances in the powerloom town over the years, Hindu families in predominantly Muslim Bajrang Wadi had continued to feel secure.

“There has been no trouble so far and god willing, the same situation will prevail no matter whatever happens elsewhere in the town,’’ said Hafeez.

Although the temple and the masjid have been provided security cover of late with about 10-12 armed police personnel, policemen on duty too vouch for the secular credentials of people living here.

“There is no trouble here and it is business as usual but I think it is safe to have a police posse just in case some miscreants would want to disturb the peace,’’ an official on conditions of anonymity told TOI.

Almohammadi said there was an attempt some years back to create tension when a Ganpati procession from another area flung gulal on the doors of the masjid. “However, we arrived there in time and washed it all away without making too much of a song and dance about it. These things have to be ignored in the larger interest,’’ he added.

The Hindus, despite being in a minority in Bajrang Wadi with just about 50-75 families, say they have always felt safe despite the turbulence all around them. Pradip Bagul, a trustee of the Devi Mata Mandir, said he has been residing in the area for the last 40 years and never once has he felt helpless or insecure.

“Almost the entire neighbourhood is Muslim but I have no fear from them. I have grown up with them. There was no harm to us even in the worst of times. Even on Friday when the blast occured outside the Kabrastan, there was no tension here. We were all united in grief,’’ Bagul said.

Another local Sachin Shelar said their faith in Muslims in the neighbourhood is unshaken despite the frequent incidents of communal violence in the town.

“Here, there is perfect syncronisation between the communities. Our prayers are either after or much before the Muslim brothers start their namaaz. When the namaaz is in progress no one here rings the bells and beats the cymbals. We have lived in peace and will continue to live like one good family,’’ Shelar declared.

The Times of India, September 12, 2006

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