“Tell me about your neighbourhood.”
“Oh, sir! It was wonderful. We were happy to live here for a long long time. There was no communal tension at Galakata. hindus and muslims live alike. We were all friends and brothers. My friends are all hindus. People are fine, peasants. We dine with them in marriage and funeral,” he continued like a well versed village historian.
“It’s good. But why do you look so tensed?”
“No…yes, a little bit. Come with me and I’ll tell you.”
He took me to the middle of the haat. I noticed a temple in one side of the haat. Bamboo poles and wooden structure are being set for the upcoming celebration of Durga Puja. “Some muslim hawkers from long time sell vegetables here. Now Puja committee members tell them to vacate the place immediately. And the muslim hawkers decline. An altercation has ensued. The issue has been politicized. And some cases have been launched by both hindus and muslims against one another. Police patrolling is going on. At night youths of both communities leave their homes for the fear of being arrested.”
He then guided me to the middle of the haat, and pointed to the line of communal division.
“And what about the buyers?”
“Oh. It’s no problem sir! Anybody can buy anything from any shop keeper. In case of buying articles, the border line can be crossed. But left side is reserved for the hindu hawkers, and the right for the muslim hawkers.”
I understood the frivolous peculiarity, predicament and complexity played by both hindus and muslims against a bleak and shattered tapestry of unfathomable poverty, dirt and dust, illiteracy, superstition, religious and cultural prejudices and ignominy, corruption and sycophancy.
“What about the tea shop?”
“The owner is a hindu, Paban Barman. And most of the customers are muslims. They sip Paban’s tea and gossip lazily and pass the day somehow. All poor peasants or peddlers or drivers or small traders or labourers.”
I made no comment. What he thought I didn’t know. The story of the division of the haat was so depressing. And I heard such staff from my childhood days from far and near. It was perhaps my lot to be burdened with such dull vistas of human tragedy.
He then took me to his shop and told me another interesting case of communal division. “Sir, you can’t find the fissures by one or two or ten visits. You have to live here to know the subterranean communal cracks sometime latent and sometime volcanic ruling the destiny of our people.”
I gave no particular attention to his words, as the themes were too mundane and bizarre, and they have no real basis. An elderly wizened muslim with wrinkled face, aged almost seventy, in topi and lungi sat beside us. He looked vacant and blinked his eyes, and eyed me sheepishly but said no words.
“There is a school and midday meal was cooked by muslim women of a self-help group. And the hindu children didn’t take the food,” he lamented.
Hafijur’s face had been now more pale and dry as if he had been well past of his prime. But he is merely a college guy. His words came haltingly. An agony wrung his heart. He looked terribly bewildered. I became restless and heard him no more. I stood up and took leave.
@abusiddik, 18th Oct, 2018,