Around 10-30 pm on May 19, 1984, some rioters tried to attack a Hanuman temple in the Sewri Cross Lane in Central Mumbai. As the priest and others ran out of the temple fearing for their lives, Yakub Khan Mohammad Khan, Sheikh Bahadur and Sheikh Abdullah resisted the rioters and put them to flight.
What possible interest could they, Muslims, have had in the survival of a temple, particularly after what had happened in Bhiwandi and Greater Mumbai which were rocked by communal frenzy around the same time? None, except possibly the belief that God was one no matter by which name people called Him, and that two wrongs would never make a right. For the valiant trio, to damage the temple was to insult Allah who dwelt everywhere, just as Bhagwan did. How one wishes some others had realized in December 1992 that they could not please Lord Rama by demolishing a mosque!
Here is a more revealing case. In 1986, Malegaon in Nasik district of north Maharashtra showed the way.
While neighbouring Gujarat had lately witnessed communal riots, this major powerloom centre, with a predominantly Muslim population, refused to be provoked, and both Hindus and Muslims exhibited exemplary restraint during an awkward situation at the fag-end of the Ganesh festival.
Unmindful of gun-toting policemen, they participated jointly in the Ganesh immersion procession. The event had been delayed by five days as a result of friction between Muslims observing Moharram and Hindus celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi. Politicians had ensured that an atmosphere conducive to a communal flare-up was created, but the people unitedly thwarted their designs.
In fact, in the trouble-prone Nasik, Muslims cancelled the tazia procession and most Ganesh mandals preferred to keep off combined Ganesh immersion processions. Moreover, in Malegaon, several Muslims participated in a delayed Ganesh procession, despite the atmosphere of suspicion created by politicians and miscreants.
A Blessing in disguise?
Those who instigate so-called communal riots seldom realize that they help rather than harm their victims. That happened at any rate in Mumbai which was rocked by communal riots in January 1993, in the aftermath of the Babri demolition. Those who tried to destroy Tulsiwadi’s record of communal harmony from January 9 to 11 must have rued their action.
The rows of neat, uniform, reconstructed one-storey houses which arose literally from ashes within months are a constant reminder of the failure to drive slum-dwellers out of the areas. One resident, whose house had also been burnt down along with the houses of his neighbours, told “The Times of India”: “Look, how God’s will has worked! We have come back in a better shape than before.”
Needless to say, the “we” included both Hindus and Muslims