In the middle of the dispute in Saharanpur, stands a college that could well have a positive impact on the riot-torn area.
Within the gurdwara’s premises is a girl’s college run by the gurdwara management committee. Of the 3,000 students, more than 50 per cent are Muslim.
“We never differentiated between the girls from our community and those who are Muslims. We take care of everyone as if they were our own daughters,” said Satvinder Singh, former official bearer of the managing community of the college.
The clashes in Saharanpur started when some Sikhs started extending the gurdwara on to a piece of long disputed land, which according to Muslims in the locality had once housed a mosque — something the Sikhs have been denying vehemently since they purchased the land. According to a court order passed in 2013, Sikhs were named as the actual owners of the land and the Muslims never challenged this order.
However, no permanent solution to this dispute was found.
“If they actually own the land, why did they have to start the construction in the middle of the night?” asks Salman Qureshi of the Dholikhal locality.
“We used celebrate both Eid and Diwali, but now, how do we face each other?” asks Shahzadi Begum, another resident.
So what happens to this college in the middle of feud?
“We will continue sending our girls there. They treat our girls as their daughters,” said Mohammad Sharafat, who lives near the gurdwara.
At the moment a Rapid Action Force company, deployed to keep the gurdwara safe, is staying in the college premises.
“The presence of these jawans in college is a remainder of what went wrong in the last few days but we will find another place to house them. The college can’t be allowed to remain shut. Once it open it will be open to all,” said Satvinder.