Separated by a distance of 100 feet, Shabeena and Wakeel lived in Hussainabad area of Old Lucknow. Over a week after 32-year-old Mohammad Wakeel was killed in the Lucknow protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), his wife Shabeena went on a total recall mode speaking of the challenges the two braved for an inter-faith wedding.
Once Savita, a girl born to a Hindu family, the 27-year-old fell in love with Mohammed Wakeel. When the family stopped them from getting into holy matrimony, then she turned Shabeena.
As Shabeena, she not only became a devout Muslim she also donned the Chura with pride. Both respected each other, until one day fate did them apart. The eldest of five brothers and three sisters, Wakeel drove an auto-rickshaw for a living. He succumbed to a gunshot injury. To this day and for the rest of her life Shabeena has said she will never regret marrying Wakeel.
There are a multitude of stories of this nature where two communities have lived together in harmony and the list continues to grow. Amidst the hate filled rhetoric around the now controversial CAA – NRC – NPR issue, as Delhi burned there were stories aplenty of how both Muslims and Hindus maintained that cohesive bond in the face of the worst riots in the capital in decades that has claimed nearly 42 lives.
Hindus in Shiv Vihar came forward and saved the lives of a Saleem Kassar, 48 whose Muslim family was targeted by 500 rioters unleashing mayhem on the streets. Notably bidding Saleem adieu, the family saving them applied ’tilak’ on the forehead, vermilion and a bindi on the forehead of Saleem’s better half.
Such was the ferocity of the attack on Shiv Vihar was that about 2000 families fled from the spot, leaving 400 houses burnt leaving behind unimaginable horror and a pall of gloom. Local versions have said over days that the police never came. The area continues to cope with the loss.
Another family that was saved in a similar fashion is of Ram Sewak in Shiv Vihar, who was rescued from the extremist mob by the members of a Muslim community assuring security by giving shelter. Similar scenes played out at Bhagirath Nagar where two Muslim youth stopped a mob from entering their locality and saved Hindu neighbours.
In Shahdara’s New Kardam Puri where violence was at its zenith, Muslim men rallied hard to protect a temple by sitting outside it. Hindus and Muslims of Yamuna Vihar meanwhile chose to defeat extremist forces by uniting against hatred that was a first in 34 years. Residents drew away outsiders who tried to create disturbance in the region. The locals took turns to guard the region.
Holy texts were set on fire in Ashok Nagar, where Hindus and Muslims gathered and picked up the scorched pieces. Gurduwaras also opened doors to those fleeing from the violence.
Even a local Hanuman temple became a spot to shelter those fearful for their safety. Residents reassured each other of their safety, saying, “Tumhara hi mohalla hai, don’t worry.” In Ashok Nagar, Sikhs also patrolled the area to make sure that no further damage is caused to any faith.
Even a mixed-faith group of Hindu and Muslim residents of Brijpuri took out a peace march, raising slogans of amity.
As horror stories keep tumbling out, a group of Hindus and Muslims in Chand Bagh area of the city have displayed a spirit of unity. When their locality was burning, a group of local residents in Chand Bagh formed a human chain to protect Shri Durga Fakiri Mandir in the area.
Home to 4500 Hindus and Muslims Gautampuri saw no violence, loss of property or to local businesses or residents. When mayhem brokeout in the area, people throughout the night held marches with slogans like Hum sab ek hain filling the air.
Delhi gradually crawls back to normalcy as Aman Committees work to douse illwill if any. From early morning scores of people especially local residents from Brijpuri, Ghonda, Vijay Park, Durgapuri, Yamuna Vihar, Jafrabad and other adjoining areas continue panning across streets asking locals to act as a family. The participants mostly are RWA office bearers, former people’s representatives, local leaders, senior citizens besides youths and women. The courage of these not so ordinary peace messengers is nothing short of extraordinary.