BY SYED ALI MUJTABA
Chennai: Hindus and Muslims of V Kalathur village in the Perambalur district of Tamil Nadu have amicably decided to bury their century-old differences and joined hands for the development of their place of living, rather than keep fighting over the communal issues that are blocking their progress for long.
The Hindu-Muslim hostility at V Kalathur village remains unresolved for almost a century. The conflict dates back to 1912 for the conduct of the annual Hindu temple festival. The Selliyamman temple festival is held every year in the last days of July and early August. This spans three days and involves processions with the deity that’s taken through the village streets, including ones on which Muslims live.
Muslims have objected to this because the village has an equal number of both communities. In 1990, there was a minor communal clash over this issue when the procession passed through the Muslim areas. Members of the Muslim community filed court cases against the procession in 2012, 2015, 2019, and 2021. But the Madras high court ruled in favor of the procession and allowed it to be taken out under police protection. However, an uneasy calm always prevails in the village during the temple festival every year.
According to media reports, with the conflict intensifying over the past 10 years, Collector P Sri Venkada Priya and SP S Mani started working on finding a permanent solution to this issue. “We held several peace talks with both communities over one-and-a-half years, and provided basic facilities, such as drainage canals, in the Muslim localities. Gradually, both communities started cooperating, so we could further speed up our aim of social harmony,” said District Collector Sri Priya to the media.
To this, the District SP S Mani further explained that “since the Muslims opposed the festival, we approached them and started resolving their long-pending problems. This helped them trust us and respect our efforts. At our request, some three months ago, the Muslim community invited the Hindus to their Santhana Koodu chariot procession of the local Dargah. At our behest, the Hindu members attended the event that set the ball rolling, the SP said.
“In return, the Muslim members were invited by the Hindus for the temple festival. They too came forward and exchanged hugs and handshakes. Thus ended the long pending dispute and the members of both communities pulled the temple chariot to kick off the same annual festival that has been the flashpoint between them for a century,” the SP said.
This year the Hindu procession was given a warm welcome by the Muslim members of the village. “We wanted peace to return, so we ignored the past and extended support for the smooth conduct of the temple festival.” said A Jaffer Ali, secretary, V Kalathur village Jamat.
The same sentiment was echoed by Ramasamy Udaiyar, a member of the temple festival organizing committee who said “the entire village was happy at the Muslims gesture and we want the religious harmony to continue in the ensuing festivals too.”
Ramasamy added, “This time, there was police protection, but we will build confidence so it won’t be required anymore in the future.” The same view was held by Jafar Ali who said; “from now on both communities will join hands and seek the development of the village rather than quarrel over religious matters. We hope our future generations will be able to live here without any problems.”
This tale of unity and harmony that was struck at a remote village in Tamil Nadu sets an example for the rest of the country where Hindus and Muslims are fighting with their past. It also points that how centuries-old disputes can be resolved in a civilized society with the collective will of the people. The local administration and the patronage of the rulers of the day have a huge role to play in such efforts. Our country seriously needs such efforts to build an environment of peace and harmony so that progress in the country can take place in the spirit of sab ka sath, sab ka vikas.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org