Heroes And Sheroes Of Plural India:Suresh Bhagat and Girija Devi, Muhammad Zahir And Others

Girija Devi looks after the tomb on Bhagalpur-Kahalgaon road. (Source photo by Prashant Ravi)
Girija Devi looks after the tomb on Bhagalpur-Kahalgaon road. (Source photo by Prashant Ravi)

I am dedicating this piece to all the common people who, in their small but significant ways have stood up for peace and communal harmony that unequivocally underlines the cultural heritage of this nation.

I would first like to share a news report that I came across while reading a newspaper back in 2014. The link to the news report, featured in Indian Express, is given below:


The news report is about a Hindu couple taking over the maintenance and upkeep of the mazaar of Baba Hazrat Wazidali Shah Rahmatuallhe Allaihe after about a dozen Muslim families were forced to flee Hindu-dominated Pakkisarai village following the 1989 riots. The tomb, according to the report, is situated on the Bhagalpur-Kahalgaon Road. This family is taking care of the mazaar since 1989. Girija Devi continued her husband Suresh Bhagat’s legacy after his death. She acts as the caretaker of the mazaar and stays in a hut near the mazaar.

When I read this news item, I felt that it would not be possible for anyone to discredit this gesture. I felt that this gesture of this Hindu couple could only be appreciated. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but on reading the online version of this story I found some comments by certain readers that I felt should not be left unanswered.

One of the comments reads, this hindu family got the business with no investment now since dargha as more customers income must be good but since there is no muslim in village this dargha should be razed to ground” ( http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/left-behind-by-muslims-a-tomb-now-has-hindu-caretakers/).

I don’t have anything to offer to people with such mentality, but only a prayer for their speedy recover from the disease of blind and senseless hatred that is eating up their very being.

Some other comments read, Muslims on the other hand, would have demolished the “infidel” structure or converted it into a mosque long ago”, or “Bring me the proof of the where “muslim head of village performs all rituals of durga pooja”?” ( http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/left-behind-by-muslims-a-tomb-now-has-hindu-caretakers/).

I felt that there was a need to satiate the desire for proof expressed by this person. And so in search for that ‘proof’, I hit upon this story, the link to which is provided below:


I think, the story of Mohammad Zahir, the caretaker of Lord Shiva temple in Khandwa, Indore, along with the dargah there, is enough ‘proof’ to quench anybody’s thirst.

If still there remains a doubt in anybody’s minds on the deeply entrenched nature of communal harmony in our country, here is something that one should at least cursorily go through once:


The short point that I am trying to make here is that we have inherited communal harmony, respect for each-others’ faiths and beliefs and an inherent instinct to stand by each-other in hours of need, through our rich cultural heritage. This is the hallmark of our culture, an inseparable part of our ‘nationalism’. Our love for our nation cannot be ever separated from our inherent trait of living in communal harmony. This is what defines our nation, and will always do. Anything contrary to this is completely unnatural to our national characteristic. And come what may, howsoever slow and gradual the process might be, the natural characteristics of a people or a nation cannot be destroyed. All attempts at doing so will only make these rise back with double force, and shine even brighter than before. It will only need a bit of effort from our side, to keep on spreading the message of peace and communal harmony, to ensure that our real past and history remains alive and is not allowed to be forgotten or erased, and to create a future that is secure from all hatred and false propaganda, and truly defines what our rich culture and people really stand for.

Nivedita Dwivedi has done MA in Elementary Education from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.   http://fromwordstovoid.blogspot.in/

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