Field Notes: In Troubled Times, A Witness To Harmony 

SAURAV KUMAR

On the evening of 13 April 2022, I entered the Masjid-e-Mamoor in Bengaluru’s Koramangala area for the first time in my life. I was there to report on how the city police were joining iftar celebrations and helping push interfaith ties in the holy month of Ramzan in the middle of a wave of Islamophobia gripping the state, aided and abetted by the government. 

At the mosque entrance, a man in a skull cap directed me towards the main hall, where a man in a green shirt was serving drinks to the Muslim devotees. 

It was only when someone called out “Nagesh Bhai” that I realised the man serving the drinks was a Hindu. I was witnessing a beautiful moment of harmony unfold before my eyes. 

Being present in that moment made it personal, something beyond what I had read, heard or seen in books, poems, folklore and movies. The man who had called out to Nagesh was Shahey Alam. As I spoke with them, I could feel their bond and how deep and genuine it was. 

Throughout the evening, I met many people who told me about the unique initiative of the Bengaluru police of hosting iftars with people from other faiths joining. What struck me was the combination of happiness and relief that Muslims expressed at seeing the police bringing people together. It was a sense of security they had not felt in a long time, and they wanted to enjoy the moment and feel safe in it. 

It was not that people had forgotten the anti-Muslim campaign of the past few weeks and the role of the government in the growing religious divide, but the interfaith iftar seemed to eclipse their grievances for a few hours. Watching Hindu young men serving biryani to hundreds of Muslims seemed to relieve tensions. 

There was reciprocity. Muslim devotees told me they had participated in the Ram Navami celebrations by serving Hindus at a temple. 

In the days that followed, I visited Masjid-e-Mamoor three times and another mosque in Jayanagar and found policemen helping and participating in the iftar

One of the most interesting parts of my reportage was my conversation with the assistant commissioner of police Sudhir Hegde, the jurisdictional police chief, who came up with the idea of hosting the interfaith iftar. A devout Hindu, he wore communal harmony on his sleeve and ensured that tilaks, skull caps and zucchettos came together during Ramzan and Ramnavmi. 

This story was a unique opportunity to witness the efforts still being made to bring people together in troubled times, celebrating interfaith traditions and reasserting communal harmony.

Read the whole story here.

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