Why Hindu families in Rishikesh villages are razing ‘mazars’ they once held sacred | Dehradun News

RISHIKESH: A unique tradition, reflective of communal harmony in the villages of Bhattowala and Ghumaniwala in Rishikesh, is rapidly getting eroded as ‘mazars’ (tomb shrines) with Islamic symbolism, built in the homes of villagers – mostly upper-caste Hindus – are now being demolished by the families themselves.
The development has occurred in the backdrop of the ongoing anti-encroachment drive initiated by the Uttarakhand government.The drive aims to reclaim state-owned land by removing encroachments, including religious structures.

A spot visit by a TOI team to the area found that most of the families in the two villages built ‘mazars’ on their properties around 15-20 years ago. Almost all of them had similar reasons – their family members had approached a local fakir, known as peer baba, to seek solution to their problems, and had been instructed by him to allocate space on their property for a ‘mazar’. Nine families out of at least 35 have so far dismantled the structures in their premises in the past few weeks, with many others saying they are likely to follow suit.

Mazars built on private land, owners have given nod to remove them: Police officials
Girish Nedwal, a villager, told TOI, “The mazar in our house was built at the insistence of my mother, who visited the peer baba when I was very ill, about 20 years ago. We went along with it all these years but now consider it pure superstition. We do not want the next generation to drift away from our Hindu beliefs.” Narrating a similar story, another villager, Dinesh Pundhir said that his mother had got a ‘mazar’ built at their home about five years ago after meeting the peer baba but “no one has visited it in the past four years.

“My mother did it, thinking it would bring some good fortune to the family. But we didn’t feel anything like that. I’m determined to get rid of it now,” said Pundhir, adding that “unlike actual mazars which have a grave underneath, the ones here resemble a symbolic tombstone without human remains.” However, not every family said they agreed to the move to demolish the structures and were doing it “only under peer pressure.” Requesting anonymity, a member of one such family said, “When a group of villagers came to persuade us to remove the mazar, initially, we felt a little bad as our beliefs were attached with it. Ultimately, we agreed, as other families were doing the same.”
Husband of Bhattowala village head, Harpal Singh Rana, who was among the first to remove a ‘mazar’ from his home, said: “Our exercise to identify such structures is ongoing. As we identify more families, we’ll try to convince them. Only Hindus are involved in this move as there are no Muslim residents in the village.” Local police officials, meanwhile, said the mazars were built on private-owned land and landowners have given their nod to remove them, so “there is no reason for us to intervene.”

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