By: Sadaket Malik
The Towering town of Bhalessa, thickly carpeted with evergreen forests and dotted with tiny hamlets, is home to roughly equal numbers of Hindus and Muslims, Besides walls of suspicion strong ties bind other Hindus and Muslims and have halted the complete polarisation of the populace. This is something that I’ve been attempting to study since long. A township well knitted by historical Kalgoni temple and Markazi Jamia Masjid managed by Sanathan Dharam Sabha and Temari Committee.
The people in community social work, Aman Committees of Hindu and Muslim populace presents a very interesting picture and reveal the massage of brotherhood.
In his article Youginder Sikand- a writer par excellence working in Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi has conducted an extensive tour of the area to study Hindu Muslim relations in Bhalessa, pointed that the people of the area owe peace and end the nefarious designs. The story of yoginder Sikand in his articles entitled “Hindu Muslim relations enthralled me. The story goes like this…..!
“For the last five years, things began limping back to a semblance of ‘normality’ in Bhalessa. The number of killings registered a rapid decline. Long spells of curfew were done away with. As were the army checkpoints that had come up at every kilometer or so on the road connecting Bhalessa with Doda and Jammu. My friends in Doda, Hindus and Muslims, were ecstatic about the prospects of peace. But now, with the ongoing agitation in Jammu and in Kashmir over the Amarnath yatra, that might be a mere chimera if things are allowed to spin out of control, as they indeed seem to be”.
Yogi- A good friend of mine shared with me during my interaction with him as like this:-
“It was a little after noon that we arrived in Bhatyas, a settlement consisting of a row of houses and shops along the main road, some seven kilometers from main town. Exhausted and ravenous, we entered a tea-shop, whose amiable owner rustled up for us a sumptuous meal of rajma-chawal, standard fare in these parts.”
Despite the walls of suspicion that have come up between local Hindus and Muslims in early years, the two communities continue to live together in the same towns and villages in relative peace, barring occasional incidents. While sporadic killings of civilians lead to further polarisation and mistrust, there are other forces that are at work that help maintain centuries’-old bonds between Hindus and Muslims in this area.
O Yogi’s amazing experience with Local Sufi on Ongoing Conflict:
When yogi finally arrived at Akhiyarpur and entered Haji Sahib’s room, he was sitting in a corner on a mattress with a crowd of supplicants in rows in front of him. Most of them were Muslims, but some were Hindus, too. A few of them had come from so far as Poonch and Kathua in the hope of a miraculous cure to their woes. One by one they narrated their troubles to Haji Sahib in hushed tones. He listened to each of them patiently, advising them on what to do.
After the last of his other visitors had left, Haji Saheb turned towards Yogi. His eyes were soft, yet sad, gentle and the same time firm and determined. He looked considerably younger than the roughly seventy that they were told he was.
A day long conversation turned to the ongoing conflict in the region. Hindus and Muslims, Haji Sahib assured Yogi, had traditionally lived harmoniously in the area, even in the tumultuous days of the Partition. Killing an innocent person, he referred to the Qur’an as saying, is tantamount to slaying the whole of humankind. That principle applied in every case, he stressed, when Yogi asked him about the atrocities committed both by militants as well as Indian soldiers, which were not few in number. ‘May God grant the world His blessings’, he cryptically replied in response to Yogi’s query about the possibility of a realistic resolution to the Kashmir conflict.
An hour later they found themselves snuggled under layers of thick cotton quilts, tucking into a sumptuous meal in the house of the principal of Haji Sahib’s school. The principal and his son were impeccable hosts, and despite the fact that they were complete strangers and uninvited guests & were treated like some long-lost friends.
O Yogi with Principal of Haji Sahib’s School:
They talked late into the night, mostly on the ongoing conflict and the impact this had had on Hindu-Muslim relations. Before they finally retired for the night, the principal read out to them a letter written by him and recently published in a Jammu-based Urdu newspaper.
The letter stated, Jammu town observed a complete shut-down. That very morning the principal’s grandson, a student in Jammu University, had to appear for an important examination.
He assumed that because of the strike the examination had been postponed. In the afternoon, he rang up a Hindu friend of his, who told him, to his shock, that the examination was actually on schedule and that he had just entered the examination hall. No vehicles were plying in the streets that day and the principal’s son had no way out to reach the university. However, his friend magnanimously rushed out of the examination hall and sped on his motorcycle all the way to his house and picked him. They arrived in the examination hall just in time to write their paper. ‘Such examples of Hindu-Muslim harmony and friendship must be regularly highlighted in the press’, the letter stressed. It concluded with a line in which the principal revealed that he had sent an appeal to the Chief Minister to announce a reward to his grandson’s Hindu friend for having ‘served as a model of communal harmony’.
The next morning, after a heavy breakfast which they had to accept after much protest, they trudged down the mountain back to the main road to head back to Doda town. And as the principal hugged me in farewell, Yogi promised him that he would, in his own modest way, do what he had advised in his letter: to highlight this instance of love and friendship beyond communal boundaries as a lesson that others could emulate.
Besides the divisive policies of nefarious designs, communal identities have become increasingly polarized, large numbers of Hindus and Muslims still privately insist on the need for cordial relations and do their own bit in that regard in their own ways: Jointly demonstrating against the slaughter of innocent villagers in a remote village, Aman Committee jointly spearheaded by the elderly and eminent masses of Bhalessa is a major revolt against such communal frenzy. People are busy in pooling resources to rescue people trapped in an avalanche or injured in a road mishaps, or imparting higher education to their children who before a recent decade, during the darkest nights, had to hide them in their chests in order to escape the claws of death looming over their heads.
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