Muzaffarnagar: an event that changed my life

 Sadiq Zafar

An event in life can change the way you think and mould your personality. Your conscience should question your existence, introspection should be done every night for the work you do throughout the day and think over what all you did for humanity, for people around you and your environment.

Being from the land where religious extremism and intolerance is a big issue, scope and field of work is vast. Voluntarily getting involved in acts which can heal the wounds of those who were tortured, beaten and chased away from their dwellings during communal tension, is an act of not just piety but also as a human it is a responsibility for every peace-loving individual.

My first encounter with such an event was the Muzaffarnagar communal riots of 2013. It was a chilling winter night and new born babies died because of the severe weather conditions and lack of medical care. In that atmosphere of fear among the refugees, it not was hard to understand the agony in their tearful eyes. I, along with some trained professionals from Khudai Khidmatgar, an organisation working on the principles of non-violence and peace, went to visit the refugee camps in the riot hit areas while taking an off from my urban planning studies at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) in Delhi.

It was planned to open a bridge school which could work as a bridge between the past, present and the future of those kids who had years to live and serve the nation and the humanity. Within hours, the area demarcated as school was flooded with kids from the refugee camp. Mothers from their tormented and discomforted living showed the strength to come out of that environment of fear, to heal the wounds of their kids. The mothers didn’t want the education of their children to suffer even in their hour of distress.

Since then, I’ve been voluntarily involved with Khudai Khidmatgar in the cause of humanity, whether it is a natural calamity like flood and earthquake or manmade disaster or communal strife. My voice can be heard from any platform which talks about humanity and the cause to bring peace and harmony in society. I wrote for The Architectural Review (London) to condemn the razing of a monument in Delhi. That structure, The Hall of Nations, is seen as a symbol of modernism and architectural liberation in India and any such structure which is the part of the collage of cityscape should be conserved. We’ve raised issues which support the existence of humanity like the conservation of floodplains, sanitation drive, and tree plantation. Humanitarian cause should not be restricted as the horizon of the field itself is vast.

The author is an urban planner, architect, writer and author of Sustainable Development of Yamuna Floodplain, Delhi 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 October 2016 on page no. 2

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