United in death, why not unite in life?
The deliberate bit of town planning by Syed Muzaffar Hussain, a two-time MLC and Congress leader from the Mira Bhayander constituency, shows what men in public life can contribute
A Hindu crematorium, a Muslim cemetery, a Christian burial ground and a joggers’ park, all three spaces nestling next to each other on the same plot of land. The unusual sight takes most first-time visitors to Mira Road and Poonam Sagar Complex in Thane by surprise.
The deliberate bit of town planning by Syed Muzaffar Hussain, a two-time Member of Legislative Council and Congress leader from the Mira Bhayander constituency, shows what men in public life can contribute. The veteran politician has not only seen the small township develop into what it is today, he is responsible for most of its development.
Hussain’s entry into politics was due to the same reason that most young men born in the 1980s entered their current professions: because their parents wanted them to.
“My folks have been traditional landlords of this area since the 1950s, and when I was young, my father was well acquainted with several senior Congress leaders. Mira Road had a population of 11,000 at the time and the entire Mira Bhayander belt did not have more than 70,000 people,” Hussain recalls.
Hussain joined Congress party in 1985 around the time the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session was held in Mumbai– then Bombay– when he was taken to meet senior leaders of the party. He remembers meeting former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and soon thereafter started working as the ward president of Youth Congress.
There was no looking back. Elected a municipal corporator in 1992 and again in 1996, he became President of the Maharashtra Youth Congress, Deputy Mayor of the Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation, spokesperson of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee and twice an MLC.
He relentlessly pursued the establishment of parks, hospitals, blood-banks, supermarkets and departmental stores. Supermarkets in Mira Bhayander came up in the 1990s, when the concept was still new to India and Mira Road didn’t have more than 1.50 lakh residents.
“I have used my political contacts for the development of my area. Development, education and healthcare have always been my primary areas of focus”, says Hussain, who somewhat surprisingly has never held a position in the Government.
Politics has changed beyond recognition since the 2014 election, he quips. “There is only talk of development and putting India on the global map, but the main agenda is always the same - to create rifts between communities. Not just between two religions, but rifts are now being created even between various sects of the same religion,” he adds. “We have become a laughing stock internationally because we still seem stuck in the dark ages,” he laments.
Soft-spoken and polite, Hussain is outspoken when it comes to this pet peeve.“A Muslim thinks Islam is in danger. A Hindu thinks Hinduism is in danger. An average Indian’s life span is around 60 years. How can a human being who lives for such a short time endanger a religion that has endured for centuries?” he wonders.
Talking to him one can see what drove him to construct a Hindu crematorium, a Muslim cemetery, a Christian burial ground and a joggers’ park on the same plot of land, literally adjacent to each other, in the early 2000s.
“We are all united in death and hence, we should also be united in life. I meant it as a reminder to all of us,” is his parting shot.
(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)
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