Sufi Dargah Unites, Ajmer Divides
Ajmer, Nov. 26 -- Remember the mesmerising number 'Khawaja mere Khawaja' from Bollywood film Jodha Akbar. It is inspired by the life of 12th-13th century Sufi saint Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti.
Even politicians, including those in saffron robes, prefer to kick-start their election campaign after paying their obeisance here at the mazaar (tomb) of the Sufi saint, who promoted understanding between the Muslims and non-Muslims.
But the virtuous atmosphere of tolerance evaporates as soon as the majestic Nizam gate, the main entrance to the shrine, is crossed and people meander into the same shells of religion, caste, sub-caste, etc. as they walk through the Dargah Bazaar, dotted with 400-odd shops selling souvenirs.
And this division is palpable as you find your way through the congested lane - here it is Hindus vs Muslims, Sindhis vs Vaishyas, et al.
Till some years ago, Jains owned a major chunk of the huge Lakhankotri residential area. But as their families and finances grew, they moved to bigger locations, selling their property to Muslims, who mostly live around the dargah and today either run guesthouses or work as khadims (meaning servitor, but in this people who escort pilgrims to the dargah).
The fissures that were simmering since the Babri Masjid destruction in 1992 came on the surface after the Ajmer blast of October 2007. Narendra Modi's plunge into national politics has deepened the divide.
A khadim said, "We were always confident that nothing would happen to Hindu-Muslim unity. The involvement of Hindu religious leaders shocked us." (The police picked up Bhavesh Patel and named RSS leaders complicit in the case.)
The twists and turns in the case gave fodder to the two communities to blame each other in a city where the RSS has been active from the days of the freedom movement. …