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Where Muslims keep Ram Lila alive

Sangita Bakaya in Lucknow | October 05, 2008 17:22 IST

Amid rise in incidents of terror and communal flare-ups in the country, a lone hamlet in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh [Images], sets an encouraging example of brotherhood and friendship among Hindus and Muslims.

Nurtured through generations and started by two imminent personalities of different communities way back in 1972, the Ram Lila at Bakshi ka Talab, about 20 km from Lucknow, has made an unshakable foundation for the bonds of brotherhood and friendship undeterred even by major incidents as the demolition of Babri Masjid.

Though the tradition of staging Ram Lila during the Navratra is not new to the area, the play of Bakshi ka Talab is unique as all main protagonists, including those of Ram, Lakshman, Hanuman [Images] and Dashrath, are Muslim youths.

Muzaffar Hussain, a medical practitioner and his gram pradhan friend Maiku Lal Yadav jointly started the Ram Lila in 1972 to wean away locals from the ills of those times like casteism.

Today, it presents a strong base for propagation of communal amity and harmony, Mansoor Ahmed, manager of the organising committee and son of Hussain, said.

Though the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 posing a barrier with Muslim families preferring to keep their sons away from the Ram Lila festivities, Ahmed and other members of the organising committee stepped in to play the role of Ravana, Dashrath and Hanuman to keep the tradition alive.

And today, there is no dearth of young Muslim boys who are more than eager to participate in the Ram Lila.

This year, a new group of 'actors' led by high school student Sher Khan will be playing Ram and 45-year-old farmer, Mohammad Naseem Khan, will don the costume of the 10-headed Ravana.

Mohammad S Khan, a teacher by profession, will direct the lay and act Dashrath as well. Young Suleman and his friends will share their part as Lav, Kush and others besides some Hindu actors, Ahmed said.

Stressing that there were no reservation either among the Hindus or Muslims of the area in understanding and helping each other, Ahmed said during the past two years when the Muslim holy month of Ramzan and the period of staging Ram Lila had coincided, the residents have shown great respect and deference for each other.

"Last year, when the climax of the Ravana dahan was stopped midway as it was time for Roza Iftar and namaj for the Muslims taking part in the play, the 50,000-strong audience sat in silence till they finished offering the prayers right on the stage and took snacks to end their Roza before continuing their act," Ahmed said.

He said there was no voice of dissent or objection from any section.

Though the government has provided no support to the Ram Lila being staged year after year, its radio adaptation � 'Us Gaon ki Ram Lila' --- helped the Lucknow All India Radio win the Lahsa Kaul Memorial Communal Harmony Award in 2000.

Interestingly, this four-day Ram Lila starts on the day of Dusshera when all other such programmes conclude elsewhere.

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