Hailing from Muzaffarnagar’s Nanheda village, Ramveer Kashyap mason is selflessly taking care of the lone 120-year-old mosque. The 59-year-old Mason believes that it’s a “religious” duty to protect. During the daybreak, Kashyap cleans up the mosque and then lights a candle in the evening and then he gets the structure fully whitewashed once before every Ramzan.
It was during the communal riot in 2013, a notorious group decided to destroy the mosque. Seeing this, RamveerKashyap sprung into action without even caring about his life. He immediately called village men for support. They all stood united and never gave up. Kashyap says that he respects all places of worship as he wants to spread love. “My faith teaches me to respect all places of worship,” he told TOI.
Astonishingly, Nanheda village doesn’t have a single Muslim inhabitant. Nanheda is a Jat-dominated village with a minority of Dalits and OBCs living there. Ramveer highlighted that there were quite a large number of Muslims during the British era. According to him, they moved out slowly after Independence. He adds saying that visitors come once in a while to offer prayers.
According to Ramveer, the village had a large number of Muslims during the British era. “However, they moved out gradually after Independence. Now, an occasional visitor or a traveller offers namaz here once in a while,” he said.
Kashyap stays near to the mosque and he grew up watching the construction. When there is nobody to take care of the mosque, it’s Kashyap himself who protects the mosque as he believes that the place of worship deserves respect. Not for a while but for the past 25 years, he has been doing this to maintain the mosque.
“I stay barely 100 metres away from the mosque. I grew up watching the structure and playing around it. For me, it is a place of worship, which deserves respect. In the absence of anyone taking care of it, I took up the responsibility as a young man. For the past 25 years, I broom the premises daily and ensure basic maintenance,” Ramveer said.
Kashyap who is a mason by trait has been so comfortable with taking care of the mosque from time to time. Ramveer received a lot of respect in his own village and in the region as well. Nanheda village pradhan Dara Singh said, “It has been nearly 50 years since the last Muslim family moved out of the village. But the mosque remains and is maintained the way it should be. And the credit for this goes to Ramveer who even spends his own money to get it whitewashed once before every Ramzan. At times, his family members also assist him in cleaning up the place.”
Khusnaseeb Ahmad who is a healthcare professional in the neighbouring Khedi Firozabad village said adding that “I had visited the village a few years ago and was surprised to see a Hindu man looking after the mosque. I even offered namaz there. There are enough examples of love and harmony to counter hate.”
Ashraf Usmani, in-charge, organisation and development department of Darul Uloom, added, “It is this aspect of India that makes it great. Examples like Nanheda are spread all across India. Soon after partition when all Muslims moved to Pakistan especially from Punjab, there were Sikhs and Hindus who protected and preserved mosques which are still there. Similarly, there are instances of Muslims protecting temples at many places.”
(This article was originally published in The Times of India)