MITHI: Two elderly turbaned men wearing traditional dhotis were gossiping in Dhatki, the language spoken in Tharparkar and Umerkot districts of Sindh. One introduced himself as Bheru Menghwar and the other as Faqir Muhammad Dars, both residents of Munghat village, some 100 kilometres away from Mithi Town.
Munghat is an oasis of religious harmony in a country where minority communities often complain of discrimination and persecution. This peaceful coexistence of Hindus and Muslims is not unusual for this impoverished desert district where a sense of togetherness transcends all ethnic and communal affiliations.
We, Hindus and Muslims, have lived like one family in this village for the last 200 years. Not a single communal feud has ever been reported that could have threatened communal harmony here. We share each other’s joys and grief.
Not only do we live together, but also share a common graveyard to bury our dead. There is just one thin border line. One side is for Hindus and other for Muslims, said Faqir Dars, 85.
According to local people, the Hindus participate in Muslim religious festivals like Eid and Ashura-e-Muharram. Similarly, Muslims attend Hindu festivals like Diwali and Raksha Bandhan. Many Hindu women also tie Rakhi to their Muslim brothers.
“Many Hindus set up Sabeel for mourners in Muharram, and Muslims in many areas of Tharparkar don’t eat beef out of respect for Hindus who consider the cow as sacred,” said local journalist Khatao Jani. “These people are socially integrated, which is why there has been no dispute between Hindus and Muslims. Generally too, the crime rate in the district is negligible,” he said.
According to the 1998 census, 64% Muslims and 36% Hindus live in Tharparkar, but not a single incident of forced conversion, kidnapping for ransom and extortion has been reported here in recent memory.