Wahid Khan (80) has four nephews — Shaukat Ali, Mahendra Singh, Achal Singh and Bajua. They all live together with their father, Gaznavi. Unique? But Sandhan, a remote village in Agra district of Uttar Pradesh, has, for centuries, been like this.
Almost each household at this hamlet has some members offering namaz and some puja. And they do not want to be portrayed or projected as role models.
Elders in the village told Hindustan Times that the practice had been on for more than 800 years. “It is believed that the king of this region, Singh Pal Jadau, converted to Islam some 850 years ago under the influence of Sufi saints,” they said.
But some in his family didn’t convert and came to be known as ‘Purana Thakurs’, while those who embraced Islam were referred to as ‘Rajput Muslims’.
Mazid Khan, a villager, said: “The practice of staying together comes naturally to us.” In front of Mazid’s house, there is a Hindu temple, and he looks after it. Similarly, Kallu, son of Sagar Singh, voluntarily offers labour in a Muslim graveyard.
Shahjehan Beghum, wife of Shiv Singh, has two sisters-in-law — one married observing Hindu rituals, while the other opted for a nikah. Her brother-in-law Haidar Ali also married off his two daughters in two different ways.
Bhagwan Singh, sarpanch of Sandhan panchyat, said: “Outsiders are often confused to see this harmony, but there is no confusion among us.”
Jan Muhammad, son of Narayan Singh, said: “We have never experienced communal tension. As long as I’m not stepping on to someone’s toes by practising my discipline, I think we should let everyone be.”
Bhuri Singh, a Bajrang Dal activist, said: “Religious beliefs are emotional attachments, and we need to keep them personal.”
Villagers, however, said some ‘religious leaders’ had tried in the past to create differences among the inhabitants of Sandhan, but were summarily shown the door.