In the midst of riot-hit Muzaffarnagar district where 38 people have been killed in communal clashes since Saturday, two villages have emerged as islands of communal harmony where the area's famed 'Ganga Jamuna tehzeeb' is still alive.
Even as bloody clashes eroded the trust between the two communities in the area, the Jat-dominated Mohammadpur Shakist village did not allow its lone Muslim family to leave for 'safer' options.
Despite the fact that the village lost a young man belonging to the majority community in the clashes, the villagers asked the Muslim family not to leave the village and promised that they would be protected.
On September 7, 35-year-old Jogendra was killed along with 42-year-old Virendra of neighbouring Modkhurd village while they were on their way home after attending the mahapanchayat. The riots began after people returning from the mahapanchayat were allegedly attacked by people of another community.
The Muslim family mourned Jogendra's death along with the entire village. "The death of Jogendra was a setback for my family as well," said Raisuddin whose septuagenarian mother Bundi has been visiting Jogendra's home every day to help the family in their hour of grief.
The 10-member family runs a barber shop in the village and occasionally works in the fields of Jats to earn their livelihood.
Bundi said, "Barbers in villages perform certain rituals during the period of mourning and I did all these rituals for the family and helped them with their daily chores."
The families have stayed together for generations and the Jats never made them feel that they were the only Muslim family in the village. "We share our grief and happiness and they have even deputed me as the chowkidar of the village," said Raisuddin.
Prosperous Jats provide them interest-free loan whenever they need money. "In our time of need, we never return empty handed from their doorsteps," said Raisuddin even as he and his son offered water to mourners at Jogendra's house.
The family has also been given the responsibility to invite people for Jogendra's arishti (ritual).
Jogendra's distant relative Sunil Choudhary said, "We can't ignore the significance and support of Raisuddin's family in our daily life. It is our responsibility to protect them in order to keep the ethos of humanity intact."
In another instance of communal harmony, resident of village Jaula in district Muzaffarnagar, majority Muslims have protected about 100 Hindus living in the village.
"Despite all odds, we have not allowed them to leave because it will give a bad name to our village which we can't bear," said Abdul Gaffar, the village's former headman.
The village is also giving shelter to members of a community who have fled riot-hit areas. The majority community said they had promised that no harm will come to the Hindus and despite the prevailing atmosphere, they have stayed true to their words.