There are around 35 Muslim families living in the locality and many of them are hopeful of the return of their Hindu neighbours.
By Mohd Dilshad
Muzaffarnagar: About a km into the road that leads to Laddhewala in Muzaffarnagar city, a dirty signpost welcomes visitors to this small, nondescript locality. The lanes soon start getting narrower, about 4-foot-wide, between rows of concrete houses. In one sleepy corner of an alleyway, cramped between two buildings, is a solitary temple left behind by its Hindu households sometime in the early 1990s, post the Babri Masjid demolition. Twenty six years later, this shrine is still maintained by its Muslim neighbours, who clean it daily, whitewash it every Diwali and protect it from squatters and stray animals.
Meharbaan Ali, 60, a resident of Muslim-dominated Laddhewala, still remembers the days when the Hindu families had left the area in the aftermath of communal clashes. “Jitender Kumar was one of my closest friends. I tried to stop him from leaving, despite the tension. But he left nevertheless, along with many other families, with the promise that they would be back some day. Since then, residents here have been taking care of the temple,” he said.
There are around 35 Muslim families living in the locality and many of them, like Ali, are hopeful of the return of their Hindu neighbours. Locals said that around 20 Hindu families were living here at that time and the temple was built sometime around 1970.
“The shrine is regularly cleaned and its walls periodically painted. We want them to come back and take control of it,” said Zaheer Ahmad, another local. Nadeem Khan, a former local municipal ward member, said, “Locals pool in money ahead of Diwali every year to get it whitewashed. They make it a point to keep it clean every day.”
The temple, however, does not have an idol. “There used to be one before 1992. When the families left, they took away the idol with them too,” added Ahmad, who lives next to the shrine.
The temple today is looked after by residents Gulzar Siddiqui, Pappu Bhai, Kayyuam Ahmed, Naushad, Zahid Ahmed and Maksood Ahmed. “No Hindu family lives here but if we let anyone damage their place of worship, they will lose confidence in us. We do not want that to happen which is why we look after the shrine,” said Siddiqui.
TOI had earlier reported how a 59-year-old Hindu mason in Muzaffarnagar’s Nanheda village has been taking care of a 120-year-old mosque there. The village, located around 40km from the district headquarters, does not have a single Muslim family.