Malerkotla (Punjab): In Punjab’s only Muslim-majority city of Malerkotla, a mosque and a temple share a common wall, a Muslim man sells prasad outside a Hanuman Mandir and a Brahmin-owned press prints greeting cards for Ramzan.
Mohammad Yaseen, 33, who sells prasad outside the Hanuman Mandir in the bustling Tajpora market, says Malerkotla did not witness a single communal clash even at the time of Partition. “The incidents you have heard of were the handiwork of outsiders. Here, Muslims attend Mata ki chowki and Hindus prepare sharbat for Iftar,” he says.
“The recent burning of Guru Granth Sahib in Hathoa village was accidental. In 2016, outsiders desecrated our holy book. Earlier too, inimical elements tried to breach the peace in the city but failed. Our brotherhood has withstood the tests of time,” he says.
Across the street, inside the Hanuman Mandir, the 73-year-old chief priest, Phoolchand Sharma, says the people of Malerkotla don’t judge each other by their religion. “The city remains unaffected by the politics of hatred and religion. Candidates do try to seek votes on religious lines, but their attempts to polarise people have proved futile,” he says.
“Muslims who own badge-making workshops employ Hindu artisans. The Sikh businessmen hand over the responsibility of their establishments to Muslim employees. And, they never fight over who should become the PM of the country,” he says.
A kilometre away, in Somsons Colony, a three-year-old temple and a 60-year-old mosque share a nine-inch thick wall and the pujari and the maulvi’s laughter.
The leaves priest Chetan Sharma offers at the Shivling in Lakshmir Narayan Mandir come from Bel tree in the compound of Aqsa Masjid. Sharma says he wraps up with the aarti before the namaz starts to avoid any inconvenience to Muslim devotees. “Maulvi Sahab greets me with ‘Ram Ram’ every day. We talk about things from village life to food but stay away from politics of mandir-masjid. The place is like Ayodhya but a peaceful one,” he says.
Maulvi Mohammad Hashim says the mosque officials gave electricity and water to construct temple and distributed sweets at its inauguration. “During the 2016 flare-up over the Quran desecration incident, our Sikh and Hindu brothers stood with us shoulder to shoulder. From ladder to water, we share everything,” he says.