New Delhi: In the past 48 hours, Delhi witnessed two Iftars, both as different as meat and cheese. They also marked a stamp on the diversity of the city, with an array of people from across religions, talking over scrumptious food.
Even as phirni shared its space with caramel custard and Roohafza shared space with mint cocktail, discussions at both the gatherings revolved around the faith and society. An ideal Muslim, according to a RSS leader, should not eat meat as it is “poison according to prophets".
News18’s Eram Agha attended both the gatherings, one of which was organised by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) Muslim Rashtriya Manch at the Jamia Millia Islamia University, while the other one was an inter-faith Iftar conceptualised by a group of educated and liberal Muslim women who wanted to open their kitchens to anyone who had never seen an Iftar before.
Meat is Poison According to Prophets, Preaches RSS Leader
Monday | Iftar time: 7:17 pm
“Once Indresh Kumar Ji enters the auditorium, please stand up and say Jai Hind." This was the heads up given to the small gathering of rozedars at the Jamia Millia Islamia auditorium, just five minutes before the RSS leader arrived. And as told, Kumar entered the venue amidst chants of Jai Hind from the rozedars.
With discussions, among the small gathering of 40 people, happening over chicken biryani, Indresh Kumar, in a saffron kurta and tilak on his forehead, started delivering a lecture.
Indresh Kumar at the Jamia Millia Islamia auditorium. (Eram Agha/News18.com)
“From Hazrat Adam to the last Prophet, nobody consumed meat. Muslims must abstain from eating and trading meat. According to the Prophets, meat is poison and milk is aushadhi (medicine)," said Kumar, adding that Muslims should consume cow milk during Ramzan.
Kumar also drew reference to Tulsi and said that Muslims must plant trees. “Muslims must plant trees and make the world a greener place. At home, they must plant Rehan, which is aromatic and similar to what Tulsi means to Hindus," he said.
Talking about his interactions with Muslims, Indresh Kumar said fundamentalism must be stopped the moment one notices subtle hints of it.
These statements were met with as much resistance as his entry in the campus. A group of students protested against ‘saffronisation of campus’ with black flags.
Students protests against RSS leader Indresh Kumar’s comments outside Jamia Millia Islamia University. (Eram Agha/News18.com)
Some of the 40-odd rozedars who had come for this Iftar expressed ‘shock’ at these comments and said they were only told that an Iftar was being held at the sports complex. “We were told to come for an Iftar. We weren’t told who the organisers were. We are shocked to hear this man speak," said Gul Ahmed, an MA student at the gathering. His concern was voiced by Ayesha Parveen, a student of Political Science, who said the students were not told about anyone delivering a lecture.
Some 40-odd rozedars had come for this Iftar. (Eram Agha/News18.com)
Amidst lecture on cow milk, Tulsi and vegetarianism, the rozedars were offered chicken biryani. Many, however, left the venue without breaking their fast.
When Myths Were Broken and Bonds Were Made
Sunday | Iftar time 7:17 pm
At pilot Hana Mohsin Khan’s residence in Noida, myths were broken and bonds were made, irrespective of participants’ faith. An open invite was posted on Facebook, welcoming anyone who was interested in an Iftar party. Soon, Khan’s house was buzzing with activity and brimming with people.
At a female-dominated gathering of pilots, writers, and bikers, news of London terror attack, which took place hours before the gathering, dominated the conversations on religion and tolerance.
“Blaming the entire community for an act committed by some extremists is not right, but then everyone is being called out because of such inhuman acts," said Rana Safvi, author and historian.
The Iftar spread at Hana Mohsin Khan’s residence in Noida. (Eram Agha/News18.com)
Many others talked about rising intolerance back home. “One of the BJP members was trolled after he declared on social media that he was going to observe 30-day fast. I don’t mind posting about my presence at an inter-faith Iftar, but then why do it?" said Alka Kaushik, an avid traveller.
Kaushik was among people who were happy to have made it to their first Iftar ever. “Such gatherings must become routine. It’s a great feeling to see people from different religions coming together to celebrate. All festivals must be celebrated this way," she said.
Colonel Piyush, another guest, said such gatherings must percolate to areas that have been hit by riots or been in the line of fire for some reason or the other. “Maybe, one should organise these gatherings in Dadri, Muzaffarnagar. That’s where things are generally heated over culture and religion," he said.
The Muslims in the gathering hoped for a better understanding of each other, from within the community too. “We hear of Chabeel being organised to commemorate Shaheedi Gurupurab of Guru Arjan Dev. We Muslims don’t involve others in our celebrations and commemorations. We are to blame for that. It’s time we change the practice," said a woman Muslim entrepreneur present at the gathering.
Nazia Erum, one of the organizers said, “We need this kind of effort for every religious festival because this means breaking breads and breaking myths together! Stereotypes were broken at this inter-faith iftar — especially around the kind of houses Muslims live in and the women in the community. The women co-hosts were so diverse in background like writers, bikers, pilots, journalists, lawyers and entrepreneurs… it tells about the culture of the community."