Communal Harmony

In Uttarakhand in India, Hindu sisters have donated a piece of land worth 1.2 crore to the Muslim community.

By Gulnaz Nawaz | June 2022

Whether you dream big or small, there are chances that it will come true if you have faith and work hard enough to make it a reality. Just before the last Eid-ul-Fitr, two Hindu sisters Anita (62) and Saroj (57) donated 2.1 acres of their property worth 1.2 crore rupees to the Muslim community in Uttarakhand. On Eid day, hundreds of Muslims came to the uncharted open space to perform Eid prayers. The snapshot of late Lala Brijnandan Rastogi, who died roughly 20 years ago, was displayed there.

Rastogi was a farmer who possessed land in Kashipur that was to be passed down to his daughters. Kashipur is a small village in Uttarakhand Udham Singh Nagar district, where the siblings’ generosity is being praised. The incident is reported at a time when communal unrest is rife around the country. Before Brajnandan Prasad Rastogi could share his last wish with his children, he died in his 80s in January 2003. His two daughters, Saroj and Anita, who live in Delhi and Mereth respectively, during a conversation with relatives following Rastogi’s death, came to know that he wanted to leave the property to his ‘Muslim brothers’ after his death but was reluctant to communicate this to his children. Some 19 years after their father’s death, the two came in Jaspur and contacted the president of the Kashipur Eidgah committee, requesting that the plot of land be transferred following proper procedures by the revenue authorities. After completing all the legal processes, Saroj and Anita chose to honour their late father’s request and gift the land to the Eidgah. The Eidgah was built at Bailjudi village, on a bridge over the Dhela River. The association already owns almost four acres of property there, and over 20,000 Muslims offered namaz there.

Muslims in the Udham Singh Nagar district was impressed by this gesture of goodwill. To show their gratitude, they offered prayers for the deceased man on Eid. Furthermore, committee President Haseen Khan vowed to congratulate the women on their generous decision. They quickly approached their brother Rakesh Rastogi, who lives in Kashipur, to obtain his permission, and he gladly consented. He further said, “My father was a firm believer in community peace.” He intended to gift the property to Muslims to provide more room for them to pray. And my sisters made his desire come true. “It is an excellent example of respect for various religions.” The land donation was carried out following our father’s wishes; I don’t have anything to say about it. “I respect my father’s request,” said Rakesh Rastogi. “Though land prices are exploding these days, and the location of the site might have fetched a nice price for us, it was all about our father’s dream. So we donated the land, respecting our father’s request and making a generous gift.” Haseen Khan says, “Both sisters and their families requested to have a stone slab installed on the boundary wall in honour of Lala Ji for providing the property.

The president of the Eidgah Committee, Haseen Khan, referred to Brajnandan Prasad Rastogi as Lala “When he was alive, the committee usually accepted donations from him on all key occasions,” he added. Rastogi not only generously gave money, but also supplied fruits and sweets to Muslim worshippers. Following his father’s death, his son took on Lala’s responsibilities and is now the first to give on such occasions.

He said, “For over 50 years, Lala and my father, Mohammad Raza Khan, were good friends. They are no longer with us, but their faith in brotherhood has taught us a lot.”

Muslims in the area called him “a man with a big heart”. They say he used to make big donations to all the major events in the community when he was alive.

In essence, the neighborhood is a tranquil haven. The Eidgah is bordered by a gurdwara and a Hanuman temple, Khan remarked, referring to the harmony among diverse cultures there. “There has never been a case of community strife.”