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Postcard from a Mumbai village: Padgha, with Arabic footprints, saw Muslim women in freedom struggle

The quaint little village along with its narrow winding alleys and century-old houses also has a surprisingly large role in the country’s cultural and independence history.

Written by Zeeshan Shaikh | Mumbai |
August 18, 2016 12:49:35 am
mumbai, mumbai village, padgha, padgha borivli, borivli, borivli muslim women, muslim women in borivli, muslim freedom, mumbai agra high way, maharashtra government, indian express news, mumbai news Borivli Padgha, located 53 kilometre north of Mumbai, first found its mention in the annals of history during the reign of Shilahara dynasty. Source: Deepak Joshi

For the last decade, Borivli Padgha located 53 kilometre north of Mumbai has been intertwined in the news and public perception as a centre of subversive activities.

The quaint little village along with its narrow winding alleys and century-old houses also has a surprisingly large role in the country’s cultural and independence history.

Tucked away off the bustling Mumbai-Agra Highway, Padgha first found its mention in the annals of history during the reign of the Shilahara dynasty. The feudal clan had established itself in northern and southern Konkan, present-day Mumbai and southern Maharashtra and governed the area between the seventh and the tenth century.

Inhabited by a largely indigenous population, the village had its first tryst with Arabs who would land at Bhiwandi port for trade. Over a period of time, the Arabs had set up a base along the shoreline. A small settlement of these Arab traders came up at Borivli, adjoining Padgha, sometime in the 12th century which has now transformed into a 7,000-population village with a 95 per cent Muslim population.

“Our ancestors were probably Arabs who used to trade along the Mumbai coast and settled down here with the local population. It may look small but this village has played vital role in almost all ages, including the country’s independence movement,” Nasir Mulla, a septuagenarian, who was born on the cusp of Pakistan and India’s independence days, said.

Old timers say local Muslim women had played a stellar role during the independence movement, when the ladies stepped out of their houses during the freedom movement to burn a huge bonfire of British goods in Borivli’s public square.

“The agitation was mainly of Muslim women who had invited Sarojini Naidu for the protest. A huge bonfire of British goods was raised in the centre of the village. It was an event that almost all the old timers talked about,” Nasir said.

Its residents have also played a strong role in promoting education in the area setting up schools around the village.

This political and social awareness among people is also the reason why the village was a fertile ground for Muslim activism with communists and Islamists all finding a place in the small village. This year, four residents from the village were convicted by a sessions court on charges of terrorism.

The financial clout of the local Muslims also seems to have given them the time and the confidence of being politically assertive.

“There are three dominant families — the Mullas, the Nachens and the Khots. Most of them are landowners who were bestowed land grants by local rules and subsequently, moved into timbre trade,” Mulla said.

The prosperity of the community can be seen from the sturdy and spacious houses that the community owns. Many of the houses in the village are over two centuries old. There are also murmurs of some houses having hidden crypts and bunkers.

“It is a culturally rich place. We would like people to come to see and know more of us,” Mulla added.

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