Park and play ground in Haleemnagar - Drastic metamorphosis
I revisited Haleemnagar in Mysore after eight years. The former slum has changed beyond recognition. All 233 houses are now pucca built, in neat rows and streets are impeccably clean. Children play in the playground, not on the streets. The Masjid e Akbari stands tall with its two minarets rising to the sky as if two hands are raised in prayers. But a shock was in store for me and nearly 20 others of the group of social workers belonging to Institute For Initiatives in Education, a newly formed organisation in Bangalore, whom I accompanied. Rahman Shareef, the man who brought about this slum-to-colony change is no more now. I was told he died a week before Bakrid. The residents were mournful. May his soul rest in peace, Ameen. I have seen very few dedicated workers like him among Muslims.
We sat with the residents of Haleemnagar in the administrative office of the Rahmania Committee which manages the colony. A fountain was in full bloom in a courtyard in the centre of the colony. A shadi mahal (a marriage hall ) skirted the park. The mausoleum of Haleem Pasha painted in green stood in stony silence. The colony has a population of nearly 2,300.
We sat down chatting with a clutch of humble and soft-spoken residents. Has the change meant any upward mobility for them? Our probing queries yielded a fund of information. Of the 233 houses in the colony, 150 have TVs, five families own refrigerators, three have telephone connections and 50 own motorbikes, two cars and at least three have lorries. Earlier they used to have a community TV which has ceased to function. Twenty years ago when Rahman Shareef began working among these people, they were all beedi rollers, steeped in indebtedness and poverty. Now nearly 70 families have moved out of the occupation and menfolk own auto rickshaws, a proof that occupational mobility has become the in-thing. The school in the colony is being upgraded to high school as 70 children are reportedly going to high schools in other parts of Mysore city.
25 of these boys receive scholarships. Three girls are attending college. 200 girls have been trained in embroidery and tailoring, in order that they could move away from beedi- making.
Below : Slum of yore has vanished behind the sweeping change
The girls from Haleemnagar attract alliances from respectable families in other localities. However, some of the newly married couples are settling on a nearby plot of land which has been aptly nicknamed Jawainagar, a colony of sons-in-law. Rahman Sahreef had dreams. He wanted to develop Jamainagar on the pattern of Haleemnagar, upgrade the school to 10th standard and set up an Arabic madrassa. The residents and the administrative committee are committed to these targets. They all spoke in unison about the humble manís ideals.
Haleemnagar is a living testimony to the fact that if served with vision and commitment the Muslims in India can achieve what others do. By ignoring basic development, the community cannot think of lifting itself to a higher plane most of our maulvis and leaders think of. What we need is leaders who can deliver, not idle dreamers. Long live Rahman Shareef!
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee may be a good poet but his antecedents as a historian are suspect. Last month while dedicating the Mumbai's Sahar International Airport to the memory of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj - it will be henceforth known as CSM International airport - he showed his illiberal face through a remark. He observed that while the entire country remembered Shivaji, none remembered Aurangzeb. It betrays his ignorance as much as it smacks of partisan view of history being propagated by the sangh parivar. Even before we could proceed to take a comparative look at the two individuals, let me make my opposition known to naming modern facilities after the historic personalities when they bear no relevance. Even earlier too, the Mumbai's Victoria Terminus railway station was named as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
Modern India owes much to Aurangzeb. The sixth Mughal ruler of Delhi was no ordinary ruler. He imparted India a massive shape and brought areas from Kabul to Tiruchirappalli under his dominion, something cited as historical evidence of India having its current size and shape. The distance between the two places may take nearly four days to cover by a train even in today's rapidly moving times. He unified the country by subjugating several regional powers and chieftains in the southern peninsula. Of his nearly 60 years of rule, Aurangzeb remained in Deccan for 50 years. This was no mean contribution by a king whose throne was in Delhi. It was during his campaign to unify India that he had to fight against Shivaji, a regional chieftain. Now it is for all of us to judge the two in the perspective.
Yet, for the sake of fairness, we all have to admit that the differences and wars between Aurangzeb and Shivaji had no religious angle as made out by a few biased historians. In their own right, the two individuals were fighters and had own political perceptions, Aurangzeb expanding his territory by conquering more and more areas and Shivaji defending his own small Kingdom in part of today's Maharashtra. Judged from nationalistic angle, Aurangzeb was surely engaged in a much holier task. Even the Mughal e Azam, Akbar could not bring in so much territory into India. Now it is for the people to judge who was really great.
Aurangzeb was no religious bigot. His commander in chief was Jaswant Singh, the ruler of Jaipur who led the war in Afghanistan and brought Kabul under mughal dominion. Historian Dr B N Pandey, former governor of Orissa and president of the history research cell of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), has documented the gifting of lands (jagirs) to Hindu temples by Aurangzeb. According to him, Ujjain's Mahabaleshwar Mandir, Chitrakoot's Balaji Mandir and Guwahati's Shatrunjay and Umanand Mandirs still possess the gift deeds written in Persian by Aurangzeb's court of the land granted to them. According to a firman (royal decree) dated 1098 Hijri, Aurangzeb had donated two pieces of land to Mahant Ram Jeewan Gosain of Benares for the sake of erecting hospices for the poor Brahmins and sadhus in order that they could worship without any difficulty. Aurangzeb did not gift them to project his secular credentials. It was not needed then. He did it because it was the duty of the King towards his subjects. Mouthing of secular platitudes is a political necessity of today's India where politicians need votes of Hindus and Muslims alike.
Chhatarapati Shivaji did defy Aurangzeb's grand designs on his kingdom. But he too had nothing against Muslims. He was a thorough gentleman. His commander in chief was Siddi Ibrahim. He respected the Muslim places of worship, instructed his armymen to respect the dargahs, masjids, hospices etc. and strictly prohibited harassment of Muslim residents of his dominion. He often paid obeisance at the mausoleum of Baba Sharfuddin, a saint. In fact, his father Sharfoji Maharaj was named after the saint.
It is therefore essential that we the Indians correct the perception of history. The politicians would continue to mislead us. Any thing that serves their purpose would be employed by them. It is for us to keep aside the vendetta they seek to provoke in order to polarise voters on Hindu and Muslim lines.