In Bihar, Muslims, Hindus join to celebrate Eid, Durga Puja (Lead)

September 30th, 2008 - 5:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, Sep 30 (IANS) Amid the communal tensions in various parts of India, here comes a happy story from Bihar where hundreds of thousands of Muslim and Hindu flood victims are supporting each other celebrate Eid and Durga Puja at relief camps.Muslims are helping Hindus prepare for Durga Puja, the nine-day ceremonies and festivities that began Tuesday. Hindus are helping Muslims prepare for Eid, which will be celebrated either Wednesday or Thursday.

“Even in time of distress, Hindus and Muslims are living together and celebrating their festivals together in peace in the relief camps and other temporary shelters. It is an example of understanding each other,” Nitish Mishra, Bihar disaster management minister, told IANS.

Zahid Ansari, living with his relatives at a relief camp in Saharsa after the change in the course of the Kosi river made them all homeless, said they would celebrate Eid with the help of Hindus who provided whatever possible and assured they would celebrate the festival together.

“It is not easy to celebrate Eid in relief camps but help and cooperation from others (Hindus) gave us morale boost in time of crisis,” said Ansari, once resident of a village in Supaul district.

In another relief camp in Purnea district, Naushaba Khatoon, 30, mother of three children, said her happiness lies in the support she received to buy the traditional vermicelli prepared for Eid, new clothes for children and a new sari for herself.

“We were supported and helped by them (Hindus). They behaved like our relatives. We hardly face any trouble,” added Khatoon, who is happy after her husband returned from New Delhi a few days ago.

“People, mostly Hindus, are arranging sewai (vermicelli), sweets and dinner for Muslims outside relief camps,” Kamla Prasad, an activist working in Madhepura and Saharsa districts, told IANS.

As Durga Puja started in various relief camps Tuesday, “a Muslim family gave us some money to purchase essential things for puja from a nearby shop,” said Ramesh Sahni, a landless labourer at a relief camp in Saharsa.

Sunita Devi, about 40, was helped by Mohd Shaukat. “Shaukat brought traditional utensils and other items for the puja from my house, risking his life,” Sunita said.

The Bihar government had also directed district authorities in flood-hit areas to make special arrangements for Muslims on Eid and Hindus on Durga puja.

Officials in the disaster management department said the government has decided to distribute special food during Eid and Durga Puja. “People will be fed sewai, kheer, puri and aloo dum during the festivals,” they said.

R.K. Singh, principal secretary of the disaster management department, said: “The government had already provided traditional food items like dates, fried flat rice, germinated gram, jaggery, and ghughni for the Muslims who were fasting during Ramadan”.

It is estimated that 700,000-800,000 Muslims were badly affected in flood-hit areas, particularly in Araria and Purnea where Muslims account for 40 percent of the population, followed by Madhepura, Supaul and Saharsa districts, where the Muslim population is 15-20 percent.

The Bihar floods have so far claimed over 50 lives officially and affected over 3.2 million people. The Kosi river, sometimes called the ‘Sorrow of Bihar’, changed course after almost two centuries following a breach in an embankment upstream in Nepal.

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