Maholi ( Uttar Pradesh): With the society in Uttar Pradesh turning into increasingly polarized on religious and caste lines after the inter-community violence was reported, a small town of Uttar Pradesh is setting in extraordinary example where a temple, a mosque and even a gurudwara have collaborated to get the polluted river cleaned while bringing their communities together.
The town is located about 100 km from the state capital Lucknow in the town of Maholi in district Sitapur. In the town lies old Shiva and a Radha-Krishna temple with neighborhood having the pragyana Satsang Ashram and a mosque. All of them located within a stone’s throw away to each other.
At the same place, along the periphery of this amalgamated religions places, a polluted river Kathina passes and that merges into the highly polluted Gomti River, a tributary of the mighty but polluted Ganga.
The river is used by many people in the region as a dumping site by many of the villages and devotees located nearby and as a result the stink from the garbage started increasing daily. The solution was deep rooted inside the Ganga-Jamni Tehzeeb of India of Awadh.
“The river belongs to everyone. Hindus use it for ‘aachman’ (a Hindu ritual for spiritual purification), Muslims use it for ‘wazu’ or ablution. Due to lack of awareness, people had been dumping solid and bio waste here, and also doing open defecation. The situation was worsening. Only solution was to start cleaning it ourselves,” said Swami Vigyananad Saraswati, head of the Pragyana Satsang Ashram, as he went on to inspect the river stretch along with Muhammad Haneef, head of the mosque’s managing committee.
Swami also said that as soon as the ashram and temple administration started rallying volunteers for the river cleaning drive, the mosque too lend its hand of support. Apart from that Sikh Gurudwara committee in the area also came forward and brought many of the volunteers from the Sikh community.
“Once the communities came together, number of volunteers multiplied. The initiative has now become a kind of an environment-movement which is being driven by religious fervor and bonding. Watching our efforts, the local administration also offered help, and other unions like traders and Sikh gurudwara committee also joined hand for cleaning the river,” Swami told News Agencies pointing out the potential of possibilities when different communities join hands for good.
“Keeping our rivers clean is our duty and we will continue sewa whenever required,” Ujagar Singh, a member of the Sikh gurdwara committee.
The temple and mosque were both built in 1962 by then inspector Jaikaran Singh. They all get along from that time and respect each other’s sacred duties. When ‘namaaz’ (Muslim Prayers) starts, the ashram switches off its loud speakers and during the Hindu festivals and special occasions, the mosque community facilitates the temple for its arrangements.
The cleaning is still underway and the joint Hindu-Muslim team began cleaning the river from March 14.
“Many villages do not have toilets and volunteers had to stay here round the clock to stop people from defecating or throwing waste. The work was divided. Muslims volunteers would take over the Muslim majority areas and Hindus would tackle other areas, convincing people to stop pollution further while we clean,” Muhammad Haneef told News Agencies.
“Several trolleys of garbage — that included plastic, polythene, shoes, rubber, animal carcasses, human waste, glass and ceramic waste, and even some old boat wreck — were taken out of the river.
“Apart from that, several trolleys of water hyacinth, an invasive species of water plant, was removed. It obstructs the flow of the river,” Sarvesh Shukla, executive officer of Maholi town told News Agencies.
Such type of collaboration is need to handle such drives, and for that to happen people need to come together. And this time it was possible only when ‘mandir-masjid’ joined hand, it was very easy to convince people to cooperate, says Shukla.
“Few days back, some butchers were taking waste towards the river. We stopped them and there was a heated debate. Soon other elders of the community joined and we did not let them dump the waste into the river,” said Haneef, pointing out that stopping people without proper management could be daunting in future.
As of the part completed till now, nearly one kilometer of the stretch has been cleaned. The volunteers are thinking of cleaning another kilometer of it.
“There are bad elements everywhere. Few weeks back, a fringe group named Vishwa Hindu Jagran Parishad entered a Muslim-majority area and started hurling abuses. Before they would do more damage, the Hindus of that area came forward and retaliated. The group never returned since,” said Shailendra Mishra, a local resident and member of temple committee.
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