Within so many ‘negative’ things around us sometimes little positive things at personal level become an inspiration for large number of people. My old and aged friend Sanjay Mitra, a Hindu person, observing Roza in Ramzan is an example of it. He has been doing it for last 21 years, since demolition of Babri Masjid. His observation is his individual protest against such crime of Hindutva forces.
Information about this protest Roza by Sanjay Mitra was first published in a news paper in Turkey. Then BBC (Bengalee channel) picked and followed it up. Since then he has become an image protest against majoritarianism be in in India or in Bangladesh.When this was broadcast on 27th July, and put in the BBC Facebook, it went viral. More than one and a half lakh (1.5 x100000) persons responded by one hour. Within few hours this number exceeded two lakhs! It became the top news of that day. Of these responses, overwhelming majority of more than ninety percent were favorable. Some percentage was against and a few even expressed anger. Obviously. this novel form of protest touched people’s heart. I am giving English translation of news story of BBC Bangla below.
Then the article by Sohrab Hassan in Bengalee magazine “Prathom Aloe” from Bangladesh, on 2nd Aug, 2014, “We too need a Sanjay Mitra” was a detailed and self-critical appreciation of this protest from Bangladeshi perspective. The author spoke about the large scale atrocities committed against the Hindus, Buddhists, Christians minorities in Bangladesh. He praised the protest by a person from the majority Hindu community against the oppression against minority Muslims in India. Then he took the Bangladeshi majority community to task for having failed to create a Sanjay Mitra to protest against the atrocities against the minority communities.
Protest (English translation of BBC Bangla story on Sanjay Mitra) Amitabh Bhattashali/BBC Bangla
A 71 year old Hindu in Kolkata, Mr Sanjay Mitra, has been observing roza for 21years during the month of Ramzan. This is his protest as an individual against the demolition of Babri Masjid, and an expression of shame on behalf of the majority (Hindu) community.
Mr Mitra belongs to a family whose household has been conducting Durga Puja for 125 years. I went along with Mr Mitra one Ramzan evening through the lanes of Raja Bazaar, just before the maghrib namaz (the prayer after sunset) was due to begin. Mr Mitra left his house in jeans and khadi kurta, and we crossed the Hindu mohalla to enter the Muslim-dominated area of Raja Bazaar. We entered a medium-sized hotel and exchanged greetings with everyone there.
As we seated ourselves at a table, Mr Mitra said that he would generally do his iftaar (the evening meal, with which Muslims break their fast) at home. Sometimes, he would visit this hotel.
“I’ve been visiting this shop for 55 years. A lot has changed. I remember it was here that I ate beef for the first time. Since then I’ve been eating beef regularly,” Mr Mitra says with a laugh.
Just as we were talking, the maghrib namaz started. Mr Mitra did his iftaar and broke his fast in the company of people he has known for many years.
He broke his fast along with hotel owner Mohd Naimuddin and employee Mohd
Zamiruddin, eating from the same plate – banana, ripe papaya, cucumber, dates and
Naimuddin is surprised and touched to see a Hindu observe roza. “When I first learnt that Mr Mitra observes roza I was very happy; that like a Muslim he too observes roza. There is no such thing that only Muslims can observe roza. Everyone can. Hindus observe fast during many pujas. Ours is a month-long fast. It’s the same thing,” he said.
At times Mr Mitra eats fruit or roti to break his fast, and at times haleem. This is how Mr Mitra has been breaking his fast for 21 years.
Before we left for the hotel, Mr Mitra said that after the Babri Masjid demolition he
began to observe the Ramzan fast as an expression of protest. “When the demolition of Babri Masjid took place on December 6, I was in Delhi. There were major riots in North India. I felt helpless as a Hindu. As a person belonging to the majority religion I was unwilling to accept what had happened. At that time I decided to protest on my own,” Mr Mitra said.
Mr Mitra does not perform puja on a regular basis. His wife questioned him on observing only a Muslim rite. That’s why, apart from roza, he observes another fast during the hot month of chaitra (March-April), coinciding with the gajan festival. (This is a festival in rural Bengal, when prayers are offered to Shiva and the sun God for spells of rain.)
Mr Mitra said: “After many years of observing roza my wife said ‘you observe roza for Muslims but nothing for your religion.’ To which I said ‘Namashudras are generally landless peasants. There is nothing to eat during the month of chaitra. In the name of gajan, they ask for alms and eat just once in the evening. This I can do. I cannot ask for alms but I can observe gajan fast on a regular basis.’ So I observe fast during Ramzan and gajan.”
He continued: “Since I do not perform puja or rituals regularly, I do not visit a temple. In the same way, I don’t read namaaz five times a day during Ramzan.”
At one time a Communist Party member and a human rights activist, Mr Mitra’s
companions are books and music during these two (fasting) months. When he was active in the Left movement, he would keep watch all night in a Muslim area in the event of a riot.
But when Babri Masjid was demolished, Mr Mitra decided to protest in a more personal sort of way.
The reason being that his childhood memory of having survived a riot is also a very personal one.