June 10, 2003, Chandigarh, India
‘Mazaar’ that sparked violence
Talhan (Jalandhar), June 9
The ‘mazaar’ located in the north-west of the village is about a kilometre from Gurdwara Shaheedan. Besides three graves, there is a “tomb” and a small structure which is used by Iqbal Bibi and her family.
“During Partition my parents preferred to stay back here because of the strong bonds our family had with both Jats and Dalits here. This bondage continued till June 5 when all went loose and my repeated pleas to both sides were perhaps not enough to preserve the peace that we all had been enjoying for many decades.
Iqbal Bibi, who represents the sole Muslim family of the village, told The Tribune that though there was some tension in the village over the control of Gurdwara Shaheedan, but “I could never imagine that this dispute would spill over to our mela which the villagers, both Jats and Dalits, have been organising jointly for decades together. They all come here for the ‘deg’, a special preparation which is offered to the devout on sacred occasions. The doors of the ‘mazaar’ always remain open for everyone.”
“Pir Baba has been respected by all. They all come here and lit pure ghee earthen lamps at the ‘mazaar’ besides making offerings. The ‘mazaar’ belongs to the village and its people who come and seek wishes which Pir Baba fulfils. They all have been participating in the annual urs or mela where we call top qawwals and folk singers. This time also, we consulted all and had invited good artists.
“I was crying as the age-old bonds were snapped in a blitzkrieg of violence. I went to those inciting violence and with folded hands begged them to stop this madness. But they did not listen to me. Even the stage secretary, who is also a Dalit, made repeated requests on the public address system but without any success. The president of our society, Mr Paramjit Singh Bains, who is an NRI, also repeatedly appealed to all to maintain peace.
All pleas fell on deaf ears and then violence spread to the village. It has not only created bitterness but also caused a deep void between the two communities. I do not know whether in the rest of my life those old good times will ever return,” she said, holding that neither she nor the ‘mazaar’ was made a target of any communal illwill or hatred ever in the past.
“I have always enjoyed good relations with people of both the castes here. I am always invited to every function of every family in the village,” she said.
She told The Tribune that soon after the violence broke out to mar the cultural programme going on at the ‘mazaar’, brickbats and stones started raining from an adjoining house.
The policemen tried to chase away the arsonists but were outnumbered. Then a counter attack followed in which some houses, including the house from where initial brickbating had started, were targeted.
“The worst hit was the tenthouse owner whose shamianas and several pieces of furniture, including the public address and sound system, were damaged. There was total chaos. All ran for life and I stood there at the ‘mazaar’ as a mute spectator to wanton destruction. I felt sad at Pir Baba who gave hope and happiness to everyone and all this happened at his ‘mazaar’,” she said hoping that better sense would prevail to signal return or normalcy to the village.
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