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For 35 years, Sindhi volunteers have been serving Iftar to Sunni Muslim Devotees at Wallajah Mosque in Chennai

The volunteers are the followers of the teachings of Dada Ratanchand, a partition refugee who settled in Chennai

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The volunteers of The Sufidar Trust getting ready to serve iftaar. Image source: scroll.in
  • It is a 35-year-old practice where Sindhi volunteers from the Sufidar Trust, gather to serve Iftaar
  • A majority of individuals in the trust are second-generation Partition refugees from Sindh
  • Dada Ratanchand himself worked in a shop at Godown Street before he decided to walk on the path of spirituality

In a country with almost 1.3 billion population and several incidents of communal violence, any tradition vouching for inter-religious harmony takes on a symbolic overtone.

One such tradition is a 35-year-old practice where Sindhi volunteers from the Sufidar Trust, gather to serve Iftar (the meal that ends the daily fast during Ramadan) at the Wallajah mosque.

These volunteers are the followers of the teachings of Dada Ratanchand, a partition refugee who settled in Chennai.

Ratanchand Sahib. Image source: sufidar.org
Ratanchand Sahib. Image source: sufidar.org

The food here is served with an aim to spread the teachings of the Sufi saint Shahenshah Baba Nebhraj Sahib of Rohri, Sind.

Talking about the tradition, Govind Bharwani, who has been a volunteer with the Trust almost since its inception. “We believe all Gods are one, only people have turned it into different sects,” he said to scroll.in.

Bharwani added, “That is what our guruji told us.”

More like a ritual now, the followers of Dada Ratnachand assemble at the temple of the Sufidar Trust to offer prayer, to the Sufi saint Baba Dastageer. The temple is a large room with idols of Hindu gods and goddesses, Jesus Christ, the Sindhi sea god Jhoolailum and pictures of several Sufi saints.

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A majority of individuals in the trust are second-generation Partition refugees from Sindh and serve food to the Sunni Muslim devotees.

Jaikishan Kukreja, a businessman, said that his grandfather had travelled to Chennai during the Partition. He explained that since his brother was already in Chennai at that time, so the entire family settled in Chennai.

Iftaar at a mosque. Image Source: Aljazeera.com

His father was a hawker on Godown Street in Central Chennai. Kukreja explained, “He used to sell long cloth that used to be brought in from other states,” and added, “that’s how he came up in life.”

Interestingly, Dada Ratanchand himself worked in a shop at Godown Street before he decided to walk on the path of spirituality.

While the Sindhi volunteers have no idea why their teacher chose the 220-year-old mosque, they believe that this tradition inspires them to work together as a community.

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Bharwani said that they call it “seva”. He further said, “Our guruji started this many years ago and we are continuing with it. He began this tradition because he just felt like doing it. Nobody objects to this from the mosque also.”

The Wallajah mosque or the Big Mosque as it is famously known was built in 1795 by Muhammed Ali Wallajah, the eighth Nawab of Arcot in Triplicane. One of the unique features of the mosque is a Persian chronogram composed by Rajah Makkan Lal, the Nawab’s private secretary.

It was about 35 years back that the mosque authorities granted the Sufidar members permission to distribute food at Dada Ratanchandji’s request. Ever since then, the mosque authorities and the Trust members have been working in harmony and mutual understanding.

Suhail Ahmed, a volunteer of the Wallajah mosque, said that in most other places, they don’t allow people from other communities to distribute food. But Ramadan is a special month.

Ahmed added, “Eid is a time when we can all come together,” he said. “That is one reason why we continue this tradition. We look at this as a time for brotherhood and to meet people, be it Hindus, Muslims or anyone.”

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Lost in Time : The Less Explored Pamban Island and the Rameswaram Island | Travelogue

The land of temples, picturesque locales, architecture, and the home of the 'Missile Man' of India - welcome to the Rameswaram Island!

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Rameswaram island
We take you through a town lost in time, Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram island. Wikimedia

Rameswaram, September 15, 2017 : Off the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, some 500 km south of Chennai, lies Pamban Island. Seemingly a stone’s throw from neighboring Sri Lanka, this is an island steeped in historical significance, and with some of the most resilient people alive.

One of the longest sea bridges in the country, the iconic Pamban Bridge connects the mainland with the island, also known as Rameswaram Island. With breathtaking views of the Bay of Bengal, the journey to the island over this bridge rewinds one to colonial times, when it was built by the British to improve trade relations with Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

Built in 1914 as India’s first-ever sea bridge, the 6,700-foot structure is in itself an engineering and historical marvel that has withstood several of nature’s furies — from storms to cyclones.

Rameswaram island
An overview of the Pamban Brindge. Wikimedia

The bridge initially ran up to the southeastern tip of the island, Dhanushkodi, now a ghost town. After a cyclone hit it in 1964, Dhanushkodi was washed away by the sea and is now a mere skeleton of the town it once was.

Remnants of its railway lines, church and the devastated dwellings of people can still be seen, though in very poor shape.

From the tip of the region, cell phone networks welcome one to Sri Lanka.

Visible from here is the Adam’s Bridge — a former land link between India and Sri Lanka, now undersea — that is also known as Rama Setu, the bridge believed to have been built by Lord Rama’s army to rescue Sita from Lanka.

Nambavel, a 50-year-old, says there can be no other home for him than Dhanushkodi, of pristine waters and picturesque views of the Bay of Bengal. Three generations of his family have lived here. Although the deadly cyclone forced many to migrate to villages around, some 50 families, including Nambavel’s, refused to leave.

“This has been our home for as long as we’ve known. We grew up playing in the sea water, then learnt to make our living through fishing or running petty shops,” Nambavel told this visiting IANS correspondent.

Rameswaram island
Residents of Dhanushkodi refuse to abandon their small town; for them the “sea is everything”. Wikimedia

“Even as many people we know migrated to nearby villages, there’s no home like Dhanushkodi for us — the sea is everything,” he said.

With sea levels rising around the world due to global warming, the region is constantly threatened by nature. But that does not deter Nambavel: “Even if another cyclone is close, most of us would like to be here, a land we’ve grown up in.”

Surrounded by sea and sand, the town cannot grow any crops and has no provision for electricity due to the wind velocity in the area. It is only the solar panels, an initiative of late President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam who hailed from Rameswaram, that light up the shacks of the few residents.

With Rameswaram considered one of the holiest places for Hindus, a majority of visitors make temples the focus of their travels.

Aiming to showcase the rich cultural and historical heritage of the island, apart from the much-visited temples, Utsa Majumder, the General Manager of the newly-launched Hyatt Place, Rameswaram, is working extensively on various itineraries that uncover the untrodden places in and around the region.

“There’s a lot more that the Rameswaram Island can offer than just the temples it is mostly known for. We want people to know that Rameswaram can be an experiential destination and not just a pilgrimage spot,” Majumder told IANS.

“From historic places that have stood the test of time to some incredible architecture and engineering like the Pamban Bridge, there’s a lot a tourist can see here,” she added.

The hotel offers these itineraries to travelers according to their interests, allowing them to explore different facets of the region, along with menus that present the cuisines of the land — from kuzhi paniyaram (rice batter dumplings) to kara kozhumbu (a spicy tamarind gravy).

Rameswaram Island
Local cuisine at Dhanushkodi. Wikimedia

The region also celebrates its much-beloved son Abdul Kalam. His two-storeyed house on Mosque Street is filled with thousands of his books and is always bustling with people.

A Rs 15-crore memorial to India’s “Missile Man”, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 27, has also grown rather quickly as a tourist attraction. The memorial houses a copy of the last speech Kalam delivered at IIM-Shillong on July 27, 2015, a number of pictures of his meetings with world leaders, and a host of other objects.

As an island that is yearning to receive a boost to its tourism, even a bottle of water bought from a shack in Dhanushkodi goes towards supporting a family.

FAQs:

Reaching there: Flights to Madurai, the nearest airport, from all major cities. From Madurai, Rameswaram can be reached in 3 hrs 30 min (160 kms) by road.

For the picturesque views from a train, pick one that is available almost every hour to Rameswaram from Madurai Railway Station.

Stay: There are four-star, three-star hotels and smaller lodges in the town.

Best time to visit: October to March as the temperatures drop and stay between 20 to 30 degrees C, making travel easier. (IANS)

 

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Arrest of Dr. Kafeel Khan on Eid: This is how Fanatics at Twitterati reacted to it

Should an accused not be arrested just because it happens to be a festival day?

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Eid is a muslim festival on which Dr. Kafeel Khan was arrested
Eid is a muslim festival on which Dr. Kafeel Khan was arrested. Wikimedia
  • The intermingling of Crime and Religion occurred  when a doctor named Dr. Kafeel Khan was arrested on grounds of medical negligence in Gorakhpur Tragedy
  • It is not wrong to arrest an alleged criminal on a festival
  • Some people are making Dr. Kafeel Khan’s arrest a communal act

New Delhi, September 4, 2017: Crime and Religion are separate entities altogether but sometimes people blur the lines between the two in order to save an alleged criminal giving religion as an excuse. We should not support a criminal or an alleged criminal even if he belongs to our religion as by doing that we are creating an unsafe environment for others, it can lead to communal violence, it’s wrong from humanitarian perspective, a criminal can do no good for the society (and also for the people belonging to the same religion as him).

There have been many cases in the past where people of India tried to save a criminal because of him being a Godmen (who can’t do anything wrong) like Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Asaram Bapu, Paramahamsa Nithyananda many others. What connects these self-appointed leaders of religion is that their blind followers tried to defend them in spite of them being proved criminals. Such is the case with Indians and Religion that they try to defend criminals in the name of religion.

Also Read: Gorakhpur Tragedy: UP Police arrests Pediatrician Dr. Kafeel Ahmad on grounds of Medical Negligence

The intermingling of Crime and Religion occurred again when a doctor named Dr. Kafeel Ahmed Khan was arrested on grounds of medical negligence in Gorakhpur Tragedy. Whats the catch here? Why will people support an alleged criminal? Why will people speak against an alleged criminal getting arrested? We have the answer, it’s because Dr. Kafeel Khan is a Muslim man and was arrested on the day of Eid which according to the world of twitter is wrong.  Read the tweets below to find out the explanation given by people on why he should not be arrested on Eid:

An alleged  Criminal is an offender in eyes of law, the police can decide on what day he/she should be arrested and a festival falling on that day shouldn’t change the date of arrest. It is not wrong to arrest an alleged criminal on a festival. Should an accused not get arrested just because of a religious festivity?

Some people are making the arrest of Dr. Kafeel Khan a communal act. He was not arrested for being a Muslim, he was arrested for alleged acts of omissions and commissions as an administrator in the hospital in Gorakhpur where several children died allegedly due to lack of oxygen.

Muslim supporters of the doctor are playing the victim card and there are some people who agree on this.

In 2009, Dr. Kafeel Khan was accused of impersonating someone in the National Board Exam for medical registration.The Doctor was arrested due to rape allegations in 2015 but after the police investigation, he was proved innocent and was thus released.  All these past charges were brought into highlight by the social media.

The media hailed the doctor as a hero based on Dr. Kafeel Khan’s statement that he shelved money from his pocket to buy oxygen cylinders on 10th August. But we don’t know if what he said is true or he just said that to escape punishment. The social media played a big role in exposing the past charges.

We can smell hypocrisy here.

Also Read: Gorakhpur Tragedy: Infant Deaths, Principal of Gorakhpur Medical College Rajeev Mishra Resigns

But there are some people who know why intermixing of Crime and Religion is a harmful practice. An alleged criminal was arrested for the crime he did and not because of his religion. It’s shameful that people are defending him, saying it is wrong to arrest a Muslim man on Eid.There are 365 days in a year and on many days various festivals of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christians fall. By this logic, the police should not arrest alleged criminals on the day their prime festival falls which is impossible. This shows a reserved mindset of people who live in the 21st century and still mix religion with the crime. We should not support criminals or alleged criminals even if we share a common religion as ‘Criminals have no religion’.


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Here is how London Moves Quickly to tackle Muslim Tensions related to Terrorism!

A video shot by a witness shows a chaotic scene in which scores of people angrily shove and push toward the suspect, some trying to beat him as he fought back

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A message on a wall is seen near to where a van was driven at Muslims in Finsbury Park, North London, Britain, June 19, 2017. VOA

The seconds after the rented van sped through bus lanes, jumped the sidewalk and plowed through a group of Muslim worshippers marked a crucial moment in Britain’s bid to come to terms with its rapidly growing Muslim minority.

One person died in the incident, and at least 10 were injured.

A video shot by a witness shows a chaotic scene in which scores of people angrily shove and push toward the suspect, some trying to beat him as he fought back.

“We grabbed him,” said Abdikadir Warfa, who was a few meters away when the van slammed into people, pinning at least one victim underneath. Warfa said the suspect, now identified as 47-year-old Darren Osborne, was pulled from the van. “We tried to hold him down. He’s a very strong man. He hit people and was trying to escape,” Warfa told VOA.

Police officers attend to the scene after a vehicle collided with pedestrians in the Finsbury Park neighborhood of North London, Britain, June 19, 2017.
Police officers attend to the scene after a vehicle collided with pedestrians in the Finsbury Park neighborhood of North London, Britain, June 19, 2017. VOA

It was then that an imam came to the scene and, by many accounts, kept the crowd from seriously harming Osborne.

Warfa, like others at the scene, expressed relief that matters did not escalate, but he worries that continued attacks by Islamist extremists, and a potential rise in retaliatory strikes on British Muslims, could drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims.

“It looks like it will start a division, except if the government does something. The government needs to do something,” Warfa said.

Within hours of the attack, British Prime Minister Theresa May declared the incident a potential act of terrorism and visited the scene, as did London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who appealed for calm and announced extra police officers would be deployed to secure mosques during the remainder of Ramadan.

The scene of Muslim residents grabbing and beating the white suspect demonstrated how close Britain could come to an explosion of ethnic tensions, observers said. The anger on the streets surrounding the Finsbury Park Mosque were palpable in the afternoon hours of Monday, as warm temperatures hit an unusual 32 degrees Celsius.

Some residents, including British born Muslims, described the frustration and unease they’ve experienced following the series of terrorist attacks.

Farhia Ali, an IT student walking past the area cordoned off by police Monday, said she should not be held responsible for the actions of those who commit violence in the name of Islam.

“I’ve been scared to be a Muslim walking the streets in a hijab for a very long time, but instances like this make me even more fearful of representing what (I) believe in, and that shouldn’t be the case for anybody or any community in the United Kingdom,” said Ali.

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, meets local people in Finsbury Park Mosque, near the scene of an attack, in London, Britain, June 19, 2017.
Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, meets local people in Finsbury Park Mosque, near the scene of an attack, in London, Britain, June 19, 2017. VOA

The prime minister’s decision to declare the incident a potential act of terrorism, and assertions by police that Darren Osborne may face charges of committing, preparing or instigating an act of terrorism soothed Muslim community leaders, who have been voicing concerns about retaliation against innocent Muslims after the recent spate of deadly attacks claimed by the Islamic State group at Westminster, Manchester Arena, and London Bridge.

“After the London Bridge attacks, the social media was [in] overdrive with hate against mosques,” said Shaukat Warraich, head of Faith Associates, a Muslim non-profit group in London that recently issued a report to mosques recommending enhanced security measures in the wake of Islamist attacks.

Warraich told VOA that although Monday’s attack is the first of its kind and an isolated incident, he sees it as an indicator of rising tensions that need to be quelled between Britain’s Muslims and non-Muslims.

“I’m so happy that the prime minister clearly stated that this was a terrorist attack,” he said. “ISIL and the far right are two faces of the same coin. ISIL is trying to radicalize Muslims but the far right is trying to radicalize white people against Muslims.”

“We will not allow this to divide the Muslim community and divide us against other non-Muslims,” he said. “London will not fold because of this. We will fight against this.” (VOA)