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Temple, Mosque, Gurudwara Join Hands In This UP Town

In another incidents, last year in September, when dates of Durgapuja and Muharram clashed, Mishra and Muhammad Rizwan, Haneef's son, took charge

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All religions joined hands together to clean the polluted river. IANS

With inter-community violence reported from many parts of India in a society increasingly polarised on religious and caste lines, a small town in Uttar Pradesh is setting an extraordinary example where a temple, a mosque, and even a gurdwara, have joined hands to clean a polluted river while bringing their communities together.

About 100 km from the state capital Lucknow is the town named Maholi in district Sitapur. Here lies an old Shiva and a Radha-Krishna temple along with Pragyana Satsang Ashram and a mosque, all at a stone’s throw of each other.

Tirthan River is beautifully calm and you'll find many different kinds of fishes in it. Wikimedia Commons
The river in Sitapur is really polluted. Wikimedia Commons

Along the periphery of this amalgamated religious campus, passes a polluted river called Kathina, that merges into the highly polluted Gomti River, a tributary of the mighty but polluted Ganga. Often used as dumping site by dozens of villages and devotees, the stink from Kathina was increasing daily. The solution — Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (a term used for a fusion of Hindu and Muslim elements) – of Awadh.

“The river belongs to everyone. Hindus use it for ‘aachman’ (a Hindu ritual for spiritual purification), Muslims use it for ‘wazu’ or ablution. Due to lack of awareness, people had been dumping solid and bio waste here, and also doing open defecation. The situation was worsening. Only solution was to start cleaning it ourselves,” said Swami Vigyananad Saraswati, head of the Pragyana Satsang Ashram, as he inspects the river stretch along with Muhammad Haneef, head of the mosque’s managing committee.

Swami said that once the ashram and temple administration began rallying volunteers for the cleaning drive, the mosque also came around to help. Even Maholi’s Sikh gurudwara committee came forward and brought along many volunteers from the Sikh community.

“Once the communities came together, number of volunteers multiplied. The initiative has now become a kind of an environment-movement which is being driven by religious fervor and bonding. Watching our efforts, the local administration also offered help, and other unions like traders and Sikh gurudwara committee also joined hand for cleaning the river,” Swami told IANS pointing out the potential of possibilities when different communities join hands for good.

Ujagar Singh, a member of the Sikh gurdwara committee, equated the effort in cleaning the river with ‘sewa’, an important aspect of Sikhism to provide a service to the community. “Keeping our rivers clean is our duty and we will continue sewa whenever required,” he said.

The temple and mosque, near the town’s police station, were both built in 1962 by then Inspector Jaikaran Singh. The communal fervor is shared since years. During ‘namaaz’, the ashram switches off its loudspeakers and on Hindu festivals and special occasions, the mosque committee helps the temple with arrangements. Still underway, the joint Hindu-Muslim team began cleaning the river from March 14. According to the volunteers, it took three days alone to get the river front cleaned of defecation.

Also Read: All Religions Flourished In India: Modi

“Many villages do not have toilets and volunteers had to stay here round the clock to stop people from defecating or throwing waste. The work was divided. Muslims volunteers would take over the Muslim majority areas and Hindus would tackle other areas, convincing people to stop pollution further while we clean,” Muhammad Haneef told IANS.

The actual cleaning of the river began from March 17, when about 400 volunteers got into the waters, while about 700 of them cleaned the shores. “Several trolleys of garbage — that included plastic, polythene, shoes, rubber, animal carcasses, human waste, glass and ceramic waste, and even some old boat wreck — were taken out of the river.

“Apart from that, several trolleys of water hyacinth, an invasive species of water plant, was removed. It obstructs the flow of the river,” Sarvesh Shukla, executive officer of Maholi town told IANS. Stating that such drive is not possible unless people come together, Shukla said that since ‘mandir-masjid’ joined hand, it was very easy to convince people to cooperate. However, with poor garbage management system of small town, Swami and Haneef looked up to the administration for help.

“Few days back, some butchers were taking waste towards the river. We stopped them and there was a heated debate. Soon other elders of the community joined and we did not let them dump the waste into the river,” said Haneef, pointing out that stopping people without proper management could be daunting in future.

Swami said that they would need disilting machines to clean the river towards the second phase. According to Abdul Rauf from the mosque committee, the work is only half done. “The challenge is to maintain the cleanliness. We could clean only a small stretch of the river. We will rally again and take movement to second phase once we get directions from our elder brother Swami ji,” says Rauf. Nearly one kilometer of the stretch has been cleaned. The volunteers are aiming to clean another kilometer of it. However, be it river or communal fervor, the challenge, as residents of Maholi find, is consistency of the good.

Rohingya refugee
All came together to clean the river.

“There are bad elements everywhere. Few weeks back, a fringe group named Vishwa Hindu Jagran Parishad entered a Muslim-majority area and started hurling abuses. Before they would do more damage, the Hindus of that area came forward and retaliated. The group never returned since,” said Shailendra Mishra, a local resident and member of temple committee. In another incidents, last year in September, when dates of Durgapuja and Muharram clashed, Mishra and Muhammad Rizwan, Haneef’s son, took charge.

“All we had to do was keep a few notorious people from both communities at bay. About 5,000 strong Hindu’s Devi Shakti procession and about 2,000 strong Muslim Tazia procession of Muharram used the same road at the same time. Not a single untoward incident happened,” Haneef said. IANS

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Film Friendly Policies and Favourable Conditions in Uttar Pradesh Interest Bollywood

Popular films like "Raid", "Bareilly ki Barfi", "Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana" and "Toilet Ek Prem Katha" were also shot in Uttar Pradesh

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uttar pradesh, bollywood`
Uttar Pradesh is emerging as the new Bollywood destination. Flickr

Uttar Pradesh is emerging as the new Bollywood destination as A-listers have opted to shoot their films in the state and filmmakers are also busy exploring virgin locations. Officials say that the film-friendly policies and favourable conditions have envinced interest in shooting in the state.

Megastar Amitabh Bachchan is already shooting in the state capital for his upcoming movie, “Gulabo Sitabo”. Popular films like “Raid”, “Bareilly ki Barfi”, “Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana” and “Toilet Ek Prem Katha” were also shot in Uttar Pradesh.

The much-loved films like “Mukti Bhawan”, “Masaan”, “Ranjhana”, “Laga Chunri Mein Daag” and “Bunty Aur Babli” were shot in Varanasi. Karan Johar’s much-awaited film “Brahmastra” is also being shot in Varanasi. According to Principal Secretary Information and Tourism, Avanish Awasthi, Uttar Pradesh provides most favourable conditions and resources for film production.

“We offer subsidy if the film fulfils the set criteria and we make sure that the film units get all security and assistance. We have got approval for 21 films by the Script Examination Committee which means there will be more shooting in Uttar Pradesh in the coming months,” he said.

bollywood, uttar pradesh
Toilet- Ek Prem Katha was shot in UP. Flickr

The state government has also formed a committee in every district called the ‘Film Facilitation Committee’ which can be contacted at the time of any problem or any inconvenience. If the problem is not resolved then film producers-directors can contact ‘Film-Bandhu’ division for any assistance.

Lucknow, in particular, has been a favourite for film makers. The state capital has plenty of ‘havelis’ and palatial bungalows that add to the charm of storytelling on screen and the new memorials and parks that have come up are also an attraction for film makers.

In several cases, the owners of these locations have not charged a penny for shooting. The only ‘charge’ is a photograph with the stars or an invitation to a meal.

Earlier, Akshay Kumar had shot extensively in Lucknow for “Jolly LLB 2”. “Lucknow Central”, “Ishaqzaade” and “Dawat-e-Ishq” were set in the backdrop of Lucknow. John Abraham’s upcoming “Batla House” is another Lucknow based film. The critically acclaimed movie “Mulk” was also shot in the city of Nawabs.

bollywood, uttar pradesh
Popular films like “Raid”, “Bareilly ki Barfi”, “Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana” and “Toilet Ek Prem Katha” were also shot in Uttar Pradesh. Flickr

D.K. Singh, who works as a Liaison Officer cum arranger for film units, said: “The government has come up with film-friendly policies and even the bureaucracy is going easy with permissions. Residents no longer go berserk on seeing film stars and there is a definite ease in crowd management. The atmosphere in general is more relaxed and film makers get a good mix of urban as well as rural location in and around Lucknow. Besides, there are innumerable hotels in the state capital that suit every budget.”

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The biggest factor which is drawing filmmakers to the state is that in recent years, there has been no major law and order problem related to film and its subject.

Earlier, shooting of films like “Gadar- Ek Prem Katha” was temporarily stalled because some Muslim clerics objected to some of the names mentioned in the film. The unit of Deepa Mehta’s “Water” had to leave Varanasi without shooting even a single frame because the residents objected to the subject of widow remarriage. (IANS)