In these times of rising divisiveness, the last journey and rites of a Hindu youth in a remote corner of Malda, one of the poorest districts of the country, can easily stand out as an example of unorchestrated harmony between communities.
A group of Muslim youths took the body of Biswajit Rajak, 35, a Hindu who died on Monday, to the crematorium and even chanted the name of Hari (equivalent of Ram Naam Satya Hai) following the Hindu tradition. They carried his body on their shoulders for a distance of 3 kms to the crematorium, and performed all the traditional Hindu rituals including consigning the ashes to the nearby river and taking a dip in the river after the cremation.
Rajak’s family is are so poor that they could not pay the crematorium and associated charges.
The incident took place in Sheikhpura village of Manikchak block in Malda district, about 350 km away from Kolkata.
Rajak was suffering from liver cancer and died at his home on Monday. But when his family could not arrange his cremation on Tuesday, villagers gathered at his house and requested Biswajit’s father Nagen Rajak to allow them to cremate his son.
Even the moulavi of the local mosque also went to the crematorium. The Muslim neighbours paid the money necessary for his last rites. The Rajaks are one of the two Hindu families in the village of about 6,000 residents.
Located on the India-Bangladesh border, Malda is infamous all over the country as the hub of fake currency notes and for illegal poppy cultivation.
“I had neither the money nor the manpower to take my son to the crematorium. I don’t know what would have happened if the villagers didn’t come forward for the last rites of my son,” said Rajak’s father, Nagen Rajak, with tears streaming down his eyes.
Haji Abdul Khalek, who took the lead in arranging the last rites told HT, “No religion preaches hatred towards others. Biswajit was like our brother. Allah wouldn’t have forgiven us if we looked the other way thinking that the family follows some other religion.”
“Moulavi, Haji and hundreds of people from Muslim community arranged the last rites of Biswajit and they carried the body the entire way. This proves the exemplary brotherhood between the Hindus and Muslims in our country,” remarked the saha-sabhadhipati of the Malda zilla parishad Gour Chandra Mondal, who went to the crematorium.
“The common people are not really bothered. Helping a family in distress and chanting some Hindu names can’t take away my religion,” said Ayesh Ali, a villager who participated in the last rites.
The Muslim neighbours of Rajak also paid for his treatment and arranged to send him to a hospital in Kolkata.
Apart from his father, Rajak is survived by his wife and three daughters.