Thirty five-year-old Mohammed Anees, a craftsman, has come to Ghaziabad from his hometown Gajraula to make effigies of Ravan, Kumbhakaran and Meghnad for Dussehra celebrations. Every year, around this time, Anees comes to the city for a month to make the statues. And despite the communal tension in the region over the lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri’s Bisada village, this visit is no different for him.
Anees, who lives at the Ramlila Ground in Sanjay Nagar during his stay in Ghaziabad, said he does not feel insecure among the Hindu organisers of the festival.
“Waqt kahin bhi kharaab aa sakta hai (tragedy can strike anywhere). I am well known to the organisers here and I was their choice again. I feel secure due to the relationship I have with them. I do not feel hesitant in going to their houses at any time,” Anees said.
“I have Hindu friends here and I do not feel like a stranger in the city. Incidents like the one in Bisada are blown out of proportion by politicians. To me, it is a case of crime and the guilty should be punished. For politicians, it is a Muslim man killed by a Hindu mob,” he said.
Talking about the relationship that his family shares with the Hindu community, Anees remembered how his elder brother Idris and his Hindu mentor (ustaad) Jagat Singh worked cordially.
“They are no more now. They worked in partnership and their friendship was known to all. If Idris declined a contract for making effigy, Jagat Singh would also decline it. They stood by each other,” Anees said.
Like Anees, a number of Muslim craftsmen arrive from various western Uttar Pradesh districts in Ghaziabad and other NCR areas around this time of the year to make effigies for Dusherra.
Asif Ali, who makes effigies for Sullamal Ramlila at Ghanta Ghar, said, “Lord Ram is considered a god for his qualities. His character tells us that if we follow his life, our life too will be simple and prosperous. The Bisada incident was a mistake. It is only the politicians who gain from such incidents. The common man has no time to think about such communal issues. He is just worried about his daily earning and feeding his family.”
“I have spent most of my life making effigies and firecrackers for Hindu festivals and ceremonies. I did not think about cancelling any of the contracts after the Bisada incident,” Ali said.
He said his joint family, comprising eight brothers, is busy preparing effigies for various Ramlilas.
Rajendra Tyagi, president of Sector 10 Ramlila Samiti and a BJP councillor, said, “People from the Muslim community are an integral part of Ramlila and other Hindu festivals. They prepare effigies and fireworks for Ramlilas. The lynching incident was blown out of proportion by politicians for political gains.”
Like Sanjay Nagar and Ghanta Ghar, Muslim artisans are working on making effigies for Ramlila celebrations in other areas like Kavi Nagar and Sector 10. All these Muslim artisans have come here from other cities and live in Ghaziabad while the effigies are made.
“My tent is inside the Ramlila Ground where I make the effigies. I even offer namaz there. No restrictions have been put on us. Organisers are friendly and respectful. They also pay us on time. What more do I need?” said Sabir, another craftsman from Gajraula working at Sector 10.
“My father is in this business for the past 28 years and we have been friends with Hindus ever since. The lynching incident was one-off. It has not shaken my faith in Hindus,” said Adil, who has come from Gulaothi.