AGRA: If there is one place in India that just doesn’t get the idea of ‘Love jihad’, it is Khera Sadhan in Agra. And that’s because of its peculiar history. During the rule of Aurangzeb (1658-1707), villagers there were asked to either convert to Islam or leave their homes. Faced with such a threat, almost all of them had changed their religion at that time. After Independence, a group of local leaders exhorted the townsfolk to go back to Hinduism. Some did, others didn’t. But religion since then hasn’t mattered to the people here.
“Why should it?” asks Vikram Singh, a Thakur in the village of about 10,000 roughly 50 km away from Agra. “That’s why I don’t understand this ‘love-jihad’ nonsense. My mother Khushnuma is a Muslim, my father Kamlesh Singh a Thakur. My sister Sita is married to Inzamam and my wife Shabana is thinking of naming my newborn Santosh.”
The tolerance of each other’s faith and an inherent secularism that has to be seen to be believed has endured. Today in Khera Sadhan, it is common to have a family of four brothers with two of them Hindu, two Muslim. Or have a husband who doesn’t care about the religion of his wife, or her children for that matter. Here, Muslims worship in temples and Hindus go to the dargah. Eid and Diwali are both sacrosanct.
Ask 55-year-old Shaukat Ali and he will tell you that he recently arranged for his youngest brother Raju Singh to marry Lajo, daughter of Sunil Thakur and Reshma. The wedding ceremony will be attended by Shaukat’s brothers Rizwan Ali and Kishan Singh. The nikah will be held at a temple.
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