In the small town of Delwara in Rajasthan, Muslims, Hindus and Jains live in rare harmony even as rabid communalism is celebrated as #ShauryaDiwas.
A country which would never exist except by the efforts of a phenomenal collective will– except in a dream we all agreed to dream; it was a mass fantasy shared in varying degrees by Bengali and Punjabi, Madrasi and Jat, and would periodically need the satisfaction and renewal which can only be provided by rituals of blood. India, the new myth—a collective fiction in which anything was possible, a fable rivalled only by the two other mighty fantasies: money and God.
– Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie
December 6, 1992. A black day that signifies, for many Indians, the death of secularism, captured eloquently in the poem by poet, academic and queer activist Akhil Katyal.
On this day, the Babri Masjid, commissioned in the 16th century by the first Mughal emperor Babur, was demolished by a huge mob of Hindu right-wing nationalists on tenuous claims of the place being the birthplace of a Hindu mythological figure, Rama. The ensuing riots across the country killed over 2000 people.
Since then, we have seen riots and pogroms followed by the latest spate of lynchings and terror in the name of cow and religion. But in this heart of darkness, one small corner of Rajasthan keeps the flame of communal harmony burning bright. In Delwara, Muslims, Jains and Hindus have lived next to each other for generations. “We attend each other’s weddings, funerals, celebrations,” says resident septuagenarian Allahnur Khan. Ramesh Chandra, the Jain priest, chimes in “Till date, we have never had a communal incident here.”
The residents show photos of the Imam feted with marigold garlands during Hindu celebrations. “We are tolerant of each other’s beliefs here. Everyone is busy with their own work and don’t interfere in another’s business,” says Ramdas, the Hindu priest. “In my village, people of different faiths reside together,” says Munover Khan the Muslim cleric with pride reflected in his voice.
It is an important lesson that needs to be highlighted in times of such rabid bigotry. As Twitter bristles with #ShauryaDiwas and people call for more mosques to be demolished to “re-establish Hindu pride”, Delwara is a shining example of the secular core of the country. We only need to look to this small village in Rajasthan, populated by ordinary citizens who have lived together for decades and centuries, to realise the spirit of secularism, now increasingly under threat.
Video by Community Correspondent Shambhulal Khatik
Article by Madhura Chakraborty, a journalist in the VV editorial team