Guest Post by SAMEER KHAN
The nation was outraged with the news of the murder of Mohsin Shaikh in Pune following the riots after the suspected defaming face book post. Many people were horrified by the killings of the young techie. The news media and the social media used the word Pune in a very generic manner but the fact was much of Pune remained unaffected with the violence. The initial protest that started on the day of FB rumors took place mainly in selected places and appeared to have been clearly organized by some group that was closely coordinating its cadres by use of social media and other communication by circulating fake planted stories and directing the mobs to target specific places.
The place Mohsin Shaikh was murdered, and where the worst damage occurred was the Hadapsar area of Pune which is actually on the outer limits of Pune towards the Sholapur road.Hadapsar was a sleepy town couple of decades ago. It is Hadapsar that is the native place of the author of this article. My father was raised in Hadapsar and completed his primary education from the local Bunter School, one of the oldest surviving schools in the region
I was born and raised in South Mumbai and my world came crashing down when my father decided to move back to his native Hadapsar in mid 1980’s. I was in 7th grade and my transition from a south Mumbai boy to sleepy Hadapsar town was a very painful one. It took my very long to reconcile the fact that Hadapsar the sleepy semi rural town was now my new home.
I hated my father for the forced migration inflicted upon me and my family. I remained completely incongruous in an all Maharashtrian rustic neighborhood and it was hard for me to get used to the new reality that now Hadapsar was the place I was supposed to live.The only small Muslim hamlet nearby was Syed nagar that had some Muslims among the otherwise overwhelming Mahrashtrian Marathi speaking area.
It took me a while to get used to life in the rural settings and the rustic dialect of Marathi being spoken in the region. As time went by I got familiar to the local dialect of Marathi and also made friends with local boys visited their homes and learnt swimming with them in the local canals and snitched sugar canes and carrots from the nearby fields. Celebrate the otherwise lesser known Maharashtrian festivals like Kojagiri or Bail pola along with the others.
Most Maharashtrians do not have penchant or patience for pronouncing long names unless one belong the some selective urban section of Pune. Bhandarkar would be truncated to Bandya, Suresh would be Surya, Manish would be Manya and living by the tradition I was bestowed the sobriquet of “Samya”
When I would visit my family and friends in Mumbai and other parts of India they would often taunt or tease me calling me a Ghati or a Hadapsari which was used in pejorative manner. I hated being addressed as a Ghaati but over the period of time accepted myself as a Ghaati and I had no qualms about proudly called myself a Ghaati.
Though the presence of Muslims in the neighborhood was miniscule, almost negligible and the very tiny number of Muslims that had existed over many years were completely assimilated and entrenched into the local fabric. Most of them spoke chaste Marathi and wore the traditional white Lenga and cap that marks rural Maharashtra. It was impossible to differentiate between Hindu and a Muslim.
It would be untrue to deny that there were no social barriers between the Hindus and Muslims. Difference existed to a thin degree yet the majority of Maharashtrian Hindus were extremely tolerant towards fellow Muslims.When a local Muslim boy Mohammad who was fondly called Mamdya had slipped and fell in the canal and had drowned almost every man around had leaped inside the flowing canal to search his body unfortunately the boy could not be saved and entire town has turned up at the dead boy’s funeral to console his parents.
The two local prominent Ganesh mandals or clubs in my locality were Amar Mitra Mandal and the newly formed Shiv Premi Mitra Mandal. (Fans of Shivaji friends club) Both mandals celebrated Ganesh festival with fervor and had a traditional rivalry. When my dearest friend Bandya who was the leader of the Shiv Premi Mitra Mandal decided to print a brochure with list and names of all the members of the club Sameer Khan or Samya was the only Muslim member of the club.
Once a fight broke out between the two mandals and some of the over enthusiastic drunken members of our Shiv Premi Mitra Mandal ended up breaking the decoration of the rival Amar Mitra Mandal. Police were called in and many of the boys were questioned over the arson. I was still in my early teens and most of the older boys stepped forward to protect me and in fact the members of rival Amar Mitra Mandal came forward and declared that I was not the part of the disruptive gang and privately told me not to get involved in mandal activities and instead pursue my studies. I was loved by all as “Samya” and they accepted me as their own.
After living a couple of years in Hadapsar in 1989 my family decided to move to urban Pune and I had to bid a painful adieu to my friends. It was hard for me to assimilate in Hadapsar and after living couple of years it was equally hard for me to get away from the circle of friends whom I had become an integral part.
Last 25 years have changed Hadapsar completely today it is not longer the sleepy town of sugar cane fields. Now it’s a thriving suburb of Pune and every bit as part of growing Pune metropolis. Land prices have sky rocketed and apartment buildings have taken over from traditional mud houses and few people wear the traditional White Maharashtrian Lenga.
Killing of Mohsin Shaikh is still hard for me to digest. What has happened in last decade that has lead to his new breed of hatred? Muslims are and were a factor in local politics. Shiv Sena has had a presence in the region for more than last 30 years yet it had always focused on local issues and domestic politics that dealt with Maharashtrian issues and would never attack a Maharashtrain Marathi speaking Muslim in Pune.
So that makes me think which forces have brought the alien culture upon the Maharashtrians? Who is spreading the hate agenda that identifies a Muslim as enemy? The Local Muslims still remain a simple peaceful small community that is merely involved in earning its two square meals and the local Maharashtians never perceived them as any kind of threat.
An alien culture has descended or has been brought up the local landscape and is being infused upon some Maharashtrian youth by some insidious and ambitious politicians that have been emboldened by success of similar tactics in other parts of the country.
Having grown up in Hadapsar I can say with immense pride that local Maharashtrians by core are not communal or people with violent natured streak that would want to harm any person just because of their faith. I am still finding it hard to reconcile that such a horrific killing could take place in Hadapsar and I refuse to believe it was a spontaneous riot or violent reaction. It is not just Mohsin Shaikh who has died but a little bit a Hadapsar that I knew has also died.
Sameer Khan is a playwright, author and independent writer who tweets at @samkhan999