When an industrial town showed the way

In March 1987 some places in Madhya Pradesh witnessed communal clashes, but it redounded to the credit of the masses in both Bhopal and Ashta that they, by and large, refused to heed mischief-makers. Of course, there were cases of arson, but there was not a single case of stabbing or assault on any citizen. Additionally, after the withdrawal of curfew, Hindu and Muslim neighbours met freely and discussed frankly what had gone wrong in their towns.

But Pali, an industrial town in the same State, set an example worthy of emulation by the whole country. Though, following the riots, there was distrust between members of the two communities, there were several instances of Hindus and Muslims having helped each other even at the height of violence.

For instance, the Muslim Musafirkhana, the first place to invite the wrath of an angry mob, sheltered four Hindu families until it was safe for them to leave. Its manager, Mohammad Ismail, said it was a moment of truth for him.

“I could never have forgiven myself had something happened to the Hindus staying with us,” he said, and added, “several Hindu families also helped Muslims save themselves from rioters.”

Less than a decade ago Kashmir has started a totally new trend in resolution of communal conflicts. The picturesque temple town of Mattan, already a scene of communal violence, showed how clashing communities could be reunited.

Hindus and Muslims had been at daggers drawn ever since the outbreak of violence in the town twice in six months, following claims and counter-claims to a camping ground. The ice was broken when women belonging to both communities visited the houses of each other following a prolonged dialogue to iron out differences.

The dialogue had been initiated by the State government and involved both Hindus and Muslims. Meanwhile, the two stone idols stolen during riots from a temple in the neighbourhood were restored to the priests who reinstalled them.

In each one of the cases listed above there is a very strong undercurrent of communal harmony underscored by Sufi Islam and the Bhakti Cult.

Of course, the carnage in Gujarat in 2002, as also that in Mumbai in 1992-93, was carefully planned; even so in neither case was there an Armageddon.

Why?

The honest answer is that even in moments of fundamentalist fury, the sober precepts of the Bhakti Cult and Sufi Islam were not forgotten by a vast majority of Hindus and Muslims.

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