Muslims in Bengal raise funds for temple demolished for road; a maulvi inaugurates it
Nasiruddin Mandal had a special job on Sunday night.
The maulvi of the local mosque in West Bengal’s Birbhum district inaugurated a temple dedicated to goddess Kali, on a night when the state was observing Kali Puja.
The show of communal amity took place in Basapara of Nanoor area, about 160 km away from state capital Kolkata, that often grabs headlines for political fights.
“I have inaugurated mosques and madrasas. But this is the first time I have inaugurated a Hindu temple. It’s a different feeling altogether,” Mandal said.
Members of the Muslim community in Basapura even raised money to rebuild the Kali temple that was demolished two years ago for widening a village road. They also purchased the land for relocating the temple.
According to the 2011 census, Muslims constitute about 35% of the population of Nanoor block.
“The temple was demolished for widening a road that was an urgent need of the locals. The temple was about 30 years old and devotees regularly came here,” a local, Nikhil Bhattacharya, said.
After the temple was demolished, locals took up the plan to rebuild it at a new location. Muslims joined the drive to raise funds and, in fact, ended up collecting Rs 7 lakh of the total Rs 10 lakh that was spent to rebuild the temple at a new site.
“We discussed the issue of rebuilding the temple with locals most of whom are from the Muslim community. They collected funds. Of the Rs 10 lakh spent for the temple, Rs 7 lakhs was raised by Muslims,” Sunil Saha, president of the temple’s puja committee, said.
Both Bhattacharya and Saha said Muslims also helped in organising Durga Puja in 2018 and 2019 that became uncertain since the puja was held in the temple. They organised funds and gave logistics support to organise the puja in the absence of the temple.
“If local Muslims did not help us, organising the puja and rebuilding the temple would not have been possible. So we invited Nasiruddin Mandal to inaugurate the temple on Sunday evening,” said Saha.
Kerim Khan, the official in charge of road affairs in Birbhum Zilla Parishad, who hails from the area, said, “We are not ready to regard it as an issue involving two communities. We all live together peacefully. We stand beside each other and this is our culture. We have played a small role in the rebuilding of the temple.”
A local leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) praised the efforts.
“It’s indeed nice that people from both communities came together in the construction of the temple. We do believe in living together and not to be divided by religion,” Dilip Ghosh, the BJP’s vice-president of Birbhum district unit, said.
Over the past few years, there have been quite a few incidents in West Bengal where one community came forward to help the other.
In December 2018, Mohammad Faruq, a 58-year-old resident of Dubrajpur area in Birbhum district, donated land for setting up a crematorium for Hindus. The land that he gave had a market value of about Rs 10 lakh.
In 2017, a Muharram committee of Kharagpur town in West Midnapore district decided not to organise Tajia, and instead, gave the money to a Hindu cancer patient for his treatment.
In the same year, when no drum beater turned up to perform at a Tajia in Muharram in Suvur village of Bhatar area of East Burdwan district, the dhakis at the Durga Puja in the village replaced them.
In another incident in November 2017, a group of Muslims came forward to fund the wedding of a Hindu woman in Khanpur village of Malda district, when her family could not afford it.