Inter-faith Iftar held in Nashik church, participants bemoan mainstream media fanning politics of hate

People of all religions came together at Holy Cross Church in Nashik for Iftar, where talk centered about the Constitution being the holiest book in India and no religion being bigger than it

Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Prashant V. / Nashik

As Muslims suffer harassment with government patronage, as is quite evident in the bulldozing of their homes by authorities in New Delhi and elsewhere, the common people, sick of the growing bigotry in the country are organising themselves for a pushback against fascism.

Last month, in Mumbai, local heads of various religious institutions came together to set up a non-political platform to counter fake narratives and propagate peace and communal harmony.

Now, in Nashik in Maharashtra, a church has opened out its doors to Muslims to break their day's fast during Ramzan.

The first such multi-religious Iftar party was organised by the Bharatiya Hitrakshak Sabha and attended by members of all religions. Namaz was offered in the church and its resident priest prayed in like fashion alongside the Muslims. There were representatives from all religions, including Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Hindu and the Bohra sect.

It was clear that the Constitution of India is slowly triumphing over the divisive bigots. At the Holy Cross Church, in the heart of the city, talk was only of the Constitution being the holiest book in India and no religion being bigger than it.

There was an innate irony in the thanks these people gave to the bigots for making them more aware of the Constitution and the freedoms it safeguards for all Indian people without discrimination.

The Iftar happened almost as an after-thought. Heads of all religious institutions had gathered at the church to brainstorm about the interference of some political parties in religion and poked gentle fun at them becoming film promoters -- an obvious reference to BJP men being asked to stick posters of ‘The Kashmir Files’ on walls and urging people to watch the film.

Said Father Vency D'Mello, “There were priests from all religions gathered at the church, sharing food and thoughts together. So absorbed did we become in our discussions on brotherhood and harmony that we simply forgot the passing of time. Soon, it was almost dusk and when our Muslim brothers said they needed to leave to offer prayers and break their fast, I simply offered the church for Namaz as this is also a place of God and any prayer can be said here. We then all prayed together.”

Islamic scholar and independent preacher Maulana Zahur Ahmad, who was present on the occasion, was delighted at the generous gesture of the people present.

"We are very humbled. I will carry the message forward, but I feel such events should take place frequently and not just during Ramzan to strengthen the bonds we all share as Indians,” he said.

Kiran Mohite of Bharatiya Hitrakshak Sabha and Azmal Khan of the Aim Charitable Trust, both NGOs with no political affiliations, were the chief movers behind the all-party interaction. Mohite strongly believes in

India’s diversity. “We are known as a place where all religions have flourished and people lived together from ages," he says, determined that this unity in diversity will not be destroyed.

On the other hand, Azmal Khan said proudly, "After this programme, I'm sure that, if at any time, I become the target of someone, there will be at least 10 people who stand by me and they will not be just Muslims but people from every belief."

There was one consensus at the meet – many television channels were amplifying the hate and painting an unreal picture of India.

“The reality is different from what we see on television. The media is under control of the ruling party which is using 'saam, daam, dand, bhed' to keep them underfoot. In actuality, the people who believe in the idea of India are still together and share their happy and tough times together,” was the common perception.

As senior journalist Niranjan Takle said, while the country is in turmoil and reeling under inflation, leaders are busy receiving awards and ignoring the atrocities against their own citizens conducted in the name of the great leader. "But hate has an expiry date, love is timeless. The people shall overcome and triumph,” he said.

When people like Mohite, D’Mello, Khan, Bhante Aryanath (Buddhist), Chetna Chordia (Jain), Shabbir Burhani (Bohra) Sachin Joshi and Swapnil Ghiya (Hindus) and others like them present at the meet say they cherish freedom, equality and brotherhood and will always fight for the Idea of India, "where unity is in diversity and not in uniformity", there is hope for the nation yet.

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