Source and Image: Rediff
‘Kalesaab could have easily earned Rs 1 lakh per month as rent from this place but he gave it to Muslims for free. Secularism in India is alive only because of people like him.’
Deepak Kale, a Hindu leather shop owner who owns the property, Bajrang Bali housing society which is rather a peculiar name for a building that houses a mosque in a part of Dharavi, also known as Asia’s largest slum worldwide, where for the last six months the Muslim community has found a temporary prayer area.
When the mosque of Muslims of Mukund nagar in Dharavi, Sion, in Central Mumbai went under repairs they turned to Kale for help.
Kale out of his generosity, not only agreed to give them his 2,500 square feet shop on the ground floor of Bajrang Bali housing society for prayers, but also decided to not take any rent from them till the time their mosque is rebuilt.
“Some masjid trustees came to me to ask for my place. I have known these people since my childhood so I gave it them for offering namaaz. Khurshidbhai, who is a masjid trustee, is my childhood friend, I have spent my life with him.
“I didn’t want to take any rent from them because I bought this commercial space in order to sell it, and I had told them that the day I get a customer I will sell it after giving them two months’ notice,” said Kale.
At a very short distance from Bajrang Bali is the Noor Masjid Madarsa Faizaul Quran, the original mosque, where repair work is going on in full swing, with Muslim artisans trying their best to complete the work within stipulated time.
“In our country we need to respect each other’s faith. Muslims must respect the Hindu faith and vice versa,” adds Kale.
What has surprised Kale and Muslims of the locality is the publicity his simple gesture has received.
“We have been praying at Kalesaab’s place for the last six months. For us it was no news but after one Urdu paper published a report on this, all media people are writing about it,” says Tanvir Azmi, a businessman and resident of Mukund Nagar. “More than 90 percent of Hindus in India are like Kalesaab. He could have easily earned Rs 1 lakh per month as rent from this place but he gave it to Muslims for free. Secularism in India is only alive because of people like him.”
The locality has an equal number of Muslim and Hindu residents, living on either sides of Bajrang Bali building. So one side of the road waves green flags, while the other side waves saffron flags.
Though things are not always at peace, for instance last week three lanes away, a small mob of 200 Hindus and Muslims was ready to take over each other for the issue of flying flags but a timely intervention by community elders defused the crisis.
“In a place where small riots break out over minor issues, it is a very big thing that Kalesaab has done. He is a prime example of what Indian secularism is all about,” says Atiullah Choudhary, a businessman who prays regularly at Bajrang Bali society.
Another friend of Kale, Naeem Shaikh, pitches in, “After seeing Kalesaab, I realised one has to work on secularism daily to build bridges between Hindus and Muslims. It is a daily effort. You cannot just say that you are secular and relax in a chair. You have to work for it in society. One mistake we Indians do is that we take secularism for granted, and that must not be done.”
Dharavi experienced one of the most horrifying riots in Mumbai in 1992-93 and Kale himself had then taken an active part in saving a lot of Muslim lives.
“I housed around 200 Muslims safely in my leather shop during the 1993 riots. They left only after the situation normalised,” says Kale.
When he was questioned for his opinion over the reason that caused riots, Kale says “Rumours. There are some people in all communities — be it Hindus, Muslims or Christians — who do not want everyone to live peacefully. They are always up to some mischief and so I feel the government must bring in a law to stop people from spreading false rumours. Till that does not happen, riots will never stop.”
He has a recipe to save secularism, too. “I tell people to keep quiet and work for peace all the time. I feel if my lane is not harmed by communalism, then the country will take care of itself. If my lane is facing communal problems, what can I say about my country? So first keep communal peace in your own lane, and the country will follow suit.”
Surely Rahim must be blessing whole heartedly to this Son of Ram. While some people continue to live with small indifferences throughout their life, some don’t bother this simply for sake of humanity.
We need such peace messengers everywhere, who not only preach but actively participate to safeguard our national values of secularism and brotherhood at time of need.