From somewhere inside Malegaon’s clatter of powerlooms, Aleem Faizee runs an English-language website.
Faizee (39) puts five hours a day into keeping alive www.ummid.com, a website meant to break the stereotypes associated with Malegaon and its Muslim community.
Located in Nashik district, the Muslim-majority textile town has seen riots between Hindus and Muslims, and bomb blasts in 2006 and 2008, that killed 37 people, and —with an army Lt Colonel among the suspects — made terrorism in India more complicated than it already was.
Malegaon’s popular image is of a neglected textile backwater with intermittent flares of religious unrest, and it is this image that Faizee wants to change, which he does in the middle of running a powerloom unit and a computer hardware business.
“Some years ago, a friend of mine in Mumbai asked me why Malegaon was always in the news for all the wrong reasons. It struck me then that Malegaon didn’t have a platform to break all those stereotypes, and I decided to start this website to correct that,” Faizee said.
The electronic engineer and Pune University topper uses the site to tell Malegaon’s success stories, in addition to stories on issues of national significance.
Among the site’s readers are former Nashik district collector S Chokkalingam and former CBI chief Joginder Singh.
The town flourished after weavers from Uttar Pradesh, fearing a backlash from the British government after the 1857 mutiny, migrated en masse.
Today, it is a study in contrasts — it lives in complete cultural isolation, but its literacy levels are above the national average.
More than 24 newspapers are printed from the city, but most of its Hindu journalists are not clued into Malegaon’s Muslims and their lives, which is also true the other way round.
Faizee hopes his website — using the Internet’s transparency and accessibility as a medium — will use knowledge to break barriers.
“It’s simply a question of people outside Malegaon seeing that we are all alike, that we dream of, and aspire to the same things that they do,” Faizee said.