The recent riots in Uttar Pradeshs Muzaffarnagar district which left many dead and homeless however failed to break a bond that goes back almost 30 years. They landed in Ludhiana on September 6 when the situation in Shahpur,a small town 20 km from Muzaffarnagar was ‘tense.
Call it the lull before the storm,but news of the riots reached them the next day. However they remained firm on completing the task for which they had arrived.
I called up immediately to check on my family back in Shahpur but going back without completing effigies for Dussehra was not in mind at all, says Shaan Mohammad (25) who along with his father Aas Mohammad,brothers Chand and Azam and four other artistes landed in Ludhiana to make effigies for Dusshera celebrations.
Angered and perturbed over the role of politicians,Aas Mohammad remembers his conversation with his family that day. There was nothing. Nothing at all. Our neighbours are Hindus and we enjoy Diwali feast at their home. Can we think of killing them? My youngest brother back home said that political groups from both sides came to Shahpur and tried to instigate them but our area residents clearly told them to not interfere. Aas Mohammads father,Maksood Ahmed,was the first to come to Ludhiana in the 1980s to make effigies and since then the tradition goes on.
It was only because of our Hindu friends and our cooperation back there that our area was least affected. Only shops were shut for sometime and late night outings were banned but there were no deadly clashes, he says.
These artistes spend from their own pocket on transport,food,material used for making effigies and are provided accommodation by temple committees and some cash before they return home the day after Dussehra.
There are no deals. We do not make any demands. The temple authorities pay us what they want. But it is their affection which keeps bringing us here. The day riots broke out,the temple authorities assured us that we will be completely safe here. Riots will not affect our work, said Shaan,whose family owns a flower decoration business back home. Asked if they were worried over the safety of their family Aas Mohammad,busy measuring bamboos for 40 feet Ravana, said We know the people of our area. They can not kill each other. Whatever happened was the result of mistakes from both sides. It was wrong and unfortunate.