Friday, June 5, 2015

An aged man from Atali reduces entire village to tears

Below is a rough-and-ready English translation by Javed Anand of the lead news report published today (June 4) on Page 1 of the Mumbai edition of Urdu daily, Inquilab).

NB: One can only offer thanks to Shabbir Mulla and to his fellow villagers, Hindu and Muslim, for speaking to each other with honesty and friendship. This shows us once more, the lesson that Mahatma Gandhi died in order that we may remember: ahimsa is another name for love. Truth and love are the only medicine for communal hatred and violence: Dilip

An aged man from Atali reduces entire village to tears

Govt. and district administration fail to bring down the wall of hatred in Atali village in Ballabhgarh, Haryana; but with a few words, an aged Shabbir Mulla douses the fire, paves the way for the return of Muslims to their village

By Mumtaz Alam Rizvi  

New Delhi: History is replete with examples of how in all incidents of communal violence, if there is politics at work on one hand, there is human empathy on the other. When violence gripped Atali village in Ballabhgarh district of Haryana recently forcing Muslims to flee their homes, here too both politics and human empathy were at work.

With both factors in evidence in Atali between May 25 and June 3, there arose the question of how to resolve the conflict, how to breach the hate barrier, how to facilitate the return of the violence-affected Muslims back to their homes. Several attempts were made but no solution seemed to be in sight. At last, Union minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Krishan Pal Gurjar, state education minister, Ram Vilas Sharma, Minister, PWD, Rao Ranvir, local MLA Tejpal Tanwar and other leaders brought people from both communities together at the Panchayat Bhavan at Ballabhgarh in the hope of finding some solution. The victims of the violence spoke their minds, narrating their woes in great detail. A lot was said from both sides; the ministers and the administration were hard put to find some way out of the impasse.  

Among those attending the meeting was the aged Shabbir Mulla who sat in one corner, tears rolling down his cheeks as he listened quietly to all that was being said. When there seemed to be no solution in sight, gathering courage Shabbir Mulla stood up and said in a trembling voice: please grant me two minutes for I have something to say. As he spoke, he was heard with rapt attention. In a highly charged atmosphere, what could Mulla say in two minutes that could possibly show a way forward? 

But as he spoke, each word that he uttered helped douse the fire of hatred. What’s more, what he said reduced all the Hindus present, ministers included, to tears. Many rushed to embrace him even before he had finished his say. This is what Mulla said: “Where can we go? Even at the time of Partition in 1947, people of our village would not let us leave. When Muslims elsewhere were fleeing to Pakistan, we were not allowed to leave. We were told that this is where we must continue to live. So where can we go now? If they wanted to kill us, they could have killed us then. Why would the village elders have guaranteed our safety, offered us protection? Now, we will live how they want us to live”.

Mulla’s words brought tears to every Hindu eye. The ministers and the village elders rushed to grab Mulla and hug him tight. “You have touched our hearts, shaken us, opened our eyes. Our Muslim brothers should feel free to live in the village in any way they please. You are free to build your mosque. Even if you send us to jail we’ll live together as brothers from now on." 

The frail, aging Mulla broke the ice. As Hindus and Muslims embraced each other, the latter decided to return to their village. The ministers and the district administration gave them the assurance that the wall of the mosque which had been demolished will be rebuilt and all those who had suffered loss of property will be compensated. They also assured the Muslims that they would have the right to continue to pray in the mosque at the disputed place.

To earn for his family’s upkeep and to pay for the treatment of his ailing son, Shabbir Mulla, makes regular rounds of some 20 villages neighbouring Atali, selling cloth. Mulla has been engaged in this business for the past 30 years. The 9 days of conflict have cost him dear for he was unable to meet the orders customers had placed with him for weddings in their family.

The force of love is the same as the force of the soul or truth. We have evidence of its working at every step - M.K. Gandhi
The music of humanity

(Farzan Qureshi adds from New Delhi):
The biggest problem facing Muslims returning to their homes is the repair and reconstruction of their dwellings which had been completely destroyed; and to rebuild their lives. It may be recalled that their homes had been looted and subsequently set on fire. Meanwhile, repair of the mosque which had been the pretext for the perpetrators to run riot has commenced. Though there are some difficulties on account of the matter being subjudice, Muslims are confident of rebuilding the mosque. 

To ensure justice to the victims of the violence in Ballabhgarh a Writ Petition has been filed in the Supreme Court, seeking the immediate arrest of the perpetrators and a CBI probe of the violence. Turning down the prayer for an urgent hearing of the matter, the apex court has directed the petitioners to approach the High Court.  

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