This is my India—Muslims perform last rites of a Hindu

M. A. Siraj

Bengaluru: A Muslim NGO organized the funeral and performed the last rites of Karthik Maity (63) in Bengaluru on Friday (April 17) when request by his kin to his co-religionists to help him in the crisis fell on the deaf ears.

Even as the electronic media across the country was actively engaged in inciting the people against Muslims, it were a clutch of Muslim pall-bearers who shouldered the task shunned by Hindus fearing the deceased to have died of Covid-19 infection.  Karthik and his wife Minu Maity had arrived in Bengaluru in February to be with their pregnant daughter and son-in law Pintu Das, who works as a security guard. Karthik had passed away in sleep on Friday.

Covid-linked Fears

The city under lockdown and Pintu himself being a stranger in the city did not know how to deal with the situation. He appealed to his Hindu neighbours, who like him, were daily wage workers. But suspecting the death to be linked to Covid-19 infection, they refused to come forward. Pintu then resorted to calling Saleem Pasha who had handed over a ration kit a few days ago for the family to sustain during the lockdown from his NGO Peace for Humanity. Hearing about the difficulties of the family, Saleem Pasha got into action and organized his friends to help the family.

Hindu customs

Niyaz, Shakeel, Moeen Pasha, all members of the NGO and Kannada Nazeer, a journalist with a Kannada news channel approached a doctor to issue a certificate of natural death and the local police station to issue a permit to organize the funeral. They wrapped the body in a new sheet of cloth and got a pundit to perform the other rites. Joined by a lot many other Muslims from the locality, they carried the bier on their shoulders to the crematorium in Hebbal in northern parts of Bengaluru. Shakeel Pasha burned the incense sticks and paid Rs. 3,000 towards the cremation charges.

Pintu says he never anticipated that a tragedy of this magnitude would visit him in such critical times and that the death of his father would evoke fear and suspicion rather than bringing sympathy and help. He says the NGO activists came as angels of mercy in a forlorn destination.

Pintu had been working in the city for the last six years. His wife Uma, one among the four daughters of Karthik, had delivered a baby boy a month ago. Other three sisters live in Kolkata with their families.

Kannada Nazeer who spoke to this scribe said, the Peace for Humanity would arrange to send Karthik’s widow to Kolkata by air once the Covid-19 pandemic subsides, lockdown is lifted and air services resumed.

Storm of Appreciation

The story of Muslims organising the funeral was frontpaged by the Bangalore Mirror, a city tabloid from the TOI group on Tuesday (April 22) under the title “Muslim Brotherhood”. It has unleashed a storm of appreciation on the Facebook page of the daily. Reader Akash Maliangoudar in a terse comment said, “This is my INDIA”. Preetham Albert wrote: “My point of view is simple. There is no bad religion.” Ranajit Mitra remarked: “I respect them who stood by the side of the bereaved family.” Umashankar in a longish post said: “Spl thanks and a Great Salute to my Muslim brothers who helped the family who were in trouble due to personal and external circumstances. There are very good and great Muslims in our country. It’s only because of wrong information and selfish guidance by some people things are taking deviations at times. This incident shows that we are very much united and All Will Be Well Very Soon….” Shama Roa said: “Kudos to your long and befitting reply to anti India morons.” Kiran Kanoria’s comment summarized the situation more aptly: “But poison is fed into the minds of Hindus everyday against Muslims. Muslims, even if they do good are locked up as villains and terrorists. People in power have divided India.”