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3-min read

'Mazaar' that United Hindus, Muslims During Bihar Riots Now Stands Divided on Electoral Choices

In March last year, the Hindus had risked their lives for a Muslim seer's mazaar which was set afire by rioters in Bihar's Nawada.

Rounak Kumar Gunjan | News18.com@Rounak_T

Updated:April 10, 2019, 4:32 PM IST
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'Mazaar' that United Hindus, Muslims During Bihar Riots Now Stands Divided on Electoral Choices
The shrine of Baba Sufidullah Shah.

Nawada: It's been a year since the Hindus risked their lives for a Muslim seer's mazaar set afire by rioters in Bihar's Nawada. However, as Lok Sabha elections approach, the town stands divided on political lines.

News18 had last year reported how, in the middle of communal violence, people from both communities had stepped out of their houses to save their shared cultural heritage — the shrine of Baba Sufidullah Shah.

Ever since the incident, the men who had got together to douse the fire have been spending occasional evenings at the very place over cups of tea. A year after the riots and hours ahead of Lok Sabha polling in the district, their choices of political parties and the supporting arguments portray a bias.

Mohammad Dawood Khan, 34, a businessman, thinks the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) led grand alliance will do a better job in the state and the Congress should form the government at Centre. He bases his argument on the shared experiences of all the men in the group during the Bihar riots.

“You’ve seen what all the town had to go through last year. Before this I had never seen Hindus and Muslims in Nawada fighting like this. Nitish Kumar is under BJP’s pressure and is not able to do much,” says Dawood as the men wait for their tea to arrive.

In March last year, communal violence had spread like wildfire in this region of Bihar. The eye of the communal storm in Nawada — a vandalised statue of Lord Hanuman — had laid very close to Dawood’s house. “If NDA forms the government again, it will become a very difficult place for us," he says.

Manmohan Krishna, a local journalist, who had witnessed the events unfold from ground zero does not agree with Dawood. “The government cannot be blamed for the riots. The NDA government has worked for development of the nation,” he says.

“People had completely lost control of themselves. Heavy stone pelting was going on, traffic on the highway had been halted, people were being thrashed and police were lathi-charging to disperse the mobs," he recalls.

Meanwhile, tea is ready. The men take a cup each.

Shravan Kumar Barnwal, a garment shop owner, takes a sip and tries to make Dawood understand. “You cannot ignore the development work done by this government. And if the government favours the Hindus, what is the problem in that?" he retorts.

On the day of the riot, Barnwal had got a call from his friend who was distressed on hearing the news about the mazaar being set on fire. After this he, along with Dawood, had rushed to save the mazaar.

The mazaar, whose desecration had upset both Muslims and Hindus of Nawada, is surrounded by paddy fields on all four sides. One has to walk for a kilometre through these fields to reach the place. Nobody in the town seems to know for sure how old it is. “It is older than me,” 86 year-old Mohamad Alam Khan, the shrine’s caretaker, says with a smile. But what unites the residents of Nawada is a belief in the sanctity of the mazaar. The love for it has passed down several generations. The attack on the shrine was in many ways an attack on the shared history of Nawada’s people.

A Hindu farmer, who lives close to the mazaar and had seen the entire incident from ground zero, believes that chief minister Nitish Kumar had handled the matter very well. “Nitish ji had arrested many people during the riots. Most of them were Hindus. How can he be biased?” he says.

Nawada votes on April 11. BJP’s sitting MP Giriraj Singh, who won the seat in 2014 by defeating RJD's Raj Ballabh Prasad by a margin of nearly 1.4 lakh votes, was sent to Begusarai as Nawada went to Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) as part of the seat-sharing formula of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

This time, Chandan Kumar will contest from Nawada as the LJP candidate and RJD's Vibha Devi will contest as mahagathbandhan candidate. She is the wife of jailed former MLA Raj Vallabh Yadav, who was disqualified recently following conviction in a rape case.

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| Edited by: Divya Kapoor
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