Hindu Muslim Unity: Interfaith marriages and families thrive in U.P.

blood-related sisters with both Hindu and Muslim names
blood-related sisters with both Hindu and Muslim names

AGRA: During the rule of Aurangzeb (1658-1707), villagers there were asked to either convert to Islam or leave their homes. Faced with such a threat, almost all of them had changed their religion at that time. After Independence, a group of local leaders exhorted the townsfolk to go back to Hinduism. Some did, others didn’t. But religion since then hasn’t mattered to the people here.

“Why should it?” asks Vikram Singh, a Thakur in the village of about 10,000 roughly 50 km away from Agra. “My mother Khushnuma is a Muslim, my father Kamlesh Singh a Thakur. My sister Sita is married to Inzamam and my wife Shabana is thinking of naming my newborn Santosh.” Today in Khera Sadhan, it is common to have a family of four brothers with two of them Hindu, two Muslim. Or have a husband who doesn’t care about the religion of his wife, or her children for that matter. Here, Muslims worship in temples and Hindus go to the dargah. Eid and Diwali are both sacrosanct.

Ask 55-year-old Shaukat Ali and he will tell you that he recently arranged for his youngest brother Raju Singh to marry Lajo, daughter of Sunil Thakur and Reshma. The wedding ceremony will be attended by Shaukat’s brothers Rizwan Ali and Kishan Singh. The nikah will be held at a temple. “We are amazed when we hear stories of people fighting about inter-faith unions,” says Salim Thakur, a Geeta and Quran by his bedside. “My neighbour and first cousin Love Kush Singh has been offering Eid prayers in the village mosque for as long as I can remember. Yet, like everyone else in this village, he also celebrates Holi and Diwali.”

Read more: Communal Harmony

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