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An Open letter to Gujarat CM Shri Modi

Dear Shri Modi,
In the aftermath of the 1992 post-Ayodhya riots, a number of temples still in use in Pakistan, especially Sindh, were destroyed. It is to the credit of Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, that he ordered the repair of each one of these temples and ensured that they were restored. Here at home we have the recent example of Guru Ki Maseet in Gurdaspur district of Punjab. Guru Hargobind Singh , the Sixth Guru, built this mosque for his Muslim followers in the seventeenth century. After the partition in 1947, this mosque was taken over by the Sikhs and consecrated as a Gurudwara. Fiftyfive years later Gurmeet Rai, a distinguished Sikh conservationist, with funds made available by the Sikh community, restored the building as a mosque, the Sikhs voluntarily removed the Guru Granth Saheb to a nearby Gurudwara and restored the building to the Muslims to be used as a mosque. I quote this as an example of how Hindus and those whose faith owes its origin to the Sanatan Dharma should behave. That is the Hindu way, the only true Hindutva.

In contrast we have what has happened in Gujarat recently, where it is alleged that more than two hundred and sixtyseven mosques, dargahs, idgahs, khanqahs and other Muslim sacred places have either been destroyed or converted into temples. The Isanpur Masjid at Paladi in Ahmedabad, the Noorani Mosque in Naroda Patia, the Saraspur Mazaar at Paladi, the Zafar Row House Masjid at Vatva, the Peer Hazrat Shamsuddin Dargah and the mosque at Mehndikua in Dudheshwar, the Idgah at Kankaria, the Mariambibi Mosque, the Hassan Shaheed Mosque, etc., are some examples of historical and religious buildings being desecrated.

Whether or not, the Muslims believe that Ram resides everywhere, we Hindus certainly believe that Parmeshwar is to be found at every place of religious worship. When we desecrate a mosque we, in effect, desecrate a temple. Let me tell you a true story based on my own experience. In 1968, I was the Director, Tribal Welfare of Madhya Pradesh and I had a pious, illiterate, Muslim driver called Gulshad. I was on a tour to Bastar, and when we climbed the steep Keskal Ghat my driver stopped at a little roadside temple of Devi of the type one finds at the top of every ghat section of every road in India. Excusing himself, he went into the temple--he who was a pious Muslim who offered Namaaz five times a day and kept the Roza faithfully during Ramzan. When he emerged a few minutes later, he had a tilak on his forehead and some prasad in his right hand. When questioned Gulshad told me that he had gone into the temple to offer his thanks to God for the safe journey. When I asked him why he went to the Devi temple he said that as far as he was concerned it was an "ibadatgah", or place of worship. In his eyes he saw Allah rather than Devi and he recited the Kalima and the Fateha. As for the tilak and prasad, he saw nothing wrong with those as they were of holy origin. I narrate this to you because my illiterate driver that day taught me the true value of religion.

It is not enough for the Chief Minister of Gujarat to state that he would hand over the damaged shrines to the NGOs to rebuild. It is the duty of the Chief Minister of Gujarat and his government that they help to restore each one of these mosques, idgahs and shrines and to hand them back with respect and veneration to Muslims as a sign to them that India is as much their country as it is of the Modis and the Buchs. I could write volumes on my inner feeling about what has happened in Gujarat, especially because I am the son of the man who took over Junagadh from the Nawab early in 1948 and who, as one of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's officers, was substantially responsible for the formation of the Part B State of Saurashtra. In Junagadh, though the wounds of partition were very fresh indeed, not one hair of any Muslim's head was harmed, despite the fact that my father was an ICS officer of the Punjab cadre and had witnessed the horrors of partition at first hand. His heart was full of compassion and not revenge. Can we expect less from the man elected by our people to be the Chief Minister of a State of the importance of Gujarat? Surely you will not allow a civil servant to appear to be more concerned about his people than you, their elected representative.

If you want to really bring normalcy back to the State, if you want to show that this is still the State and the nation of the great Mahatma, if you want to prove that you know your Rajdharma, please restore holiness to that which is holy because, I repeat again, if an illiterate Muslim driver could consider a temple to be a place of worship, we Hindus, brought up in a spirit of tolerance and acceptance of all religions, must surely consider these desecrated religious places of the Muslims also to be sacrosanct. If you have any perception that this will be resented to by the Hindus, I can assure you that Hindus will applaud you for doing your duty rather than berate you for restoring the Muslim houses of worship.

With warm regards,
Yours sincerely,
MN Buch
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