Saturday, January 23, 2010

Aarti after azaan - India - The Times of India

    • Akhilesh Kumar Singh
    • For Chand Bhai and other members of the Cheeta-Meharat community, who come mostly from the Marwar region of Rajasthan, this is how it has been since ages.
    • Interestingly, no one knows how this came to be, or when. These practices, they say, have been followed by their ancestors down the ages and they intend to keep them alive. There are just three rituals of Islam that the Cheeta-Meharats have to compulsorily follow - sunnat (circumcision), dafan (burial) and eating halal meat. "These practices are a must for all members of the community, the rest is left to individual discretion," says Rustam Cheeta, a representative of the Cheeta-Meharat Mahasabha.
    • But the Cheeta-Meharats have their set of problems too. Members of the community, which stands at close to 15 lakh, and are mostly settled in Ajmer, Pali, Raj Samand, Bhilwara and Udaipur, complain that the government is apathetic towards them. Moreover, with only about 40 per cent of the community literate and over 70 per cent living below the poverty line, finding employment is a major hurdle.
    • Of late they've been beset with another anxiety. In times of religious fundamentalism, living peacefully with their secular philosophy is not easy. While the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) often holds shudhhi (purification ) and ghar-wapasi (homecoming) camps urging the community to return to the fold, Muslim organisations have been asking them to discard Hindu ways. "We've even had Hindu NRIs and West Asian Muslims sending us money to entice us to follow one religion or the other," says Chand Bhai, who has resisted such initiatives in the past and vows to uphold the community's peculiar tradition. "I am both Hindu and Muslim, and I will remain so till my death.''

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