A small village in the hinterland of Bhadarwah valley in District Doda has set an example of communal harmony, as the Hindu population unanimously choose the only Muslim living in the village unopposed as their Panch.
The Bhelan-Kharothi village of Hanga Panchayat, 10 km west of Bhadarwah town, having 450-odd residents, reposed their faith in Chowdhary Muhammad Hussain – the only tribal Muslim residing in the area to represent them. Hussain is living in the village with his family for last 15 years. When isolation based on faith is being rampantly imposed across India, Bhelan-Kharothi stands out as an exception.
"This may seem bizarre in a polarised and communally driven society today, but we take pride in our shared brotherhood," says Duni Chand (57) of village Bhelan.
"This narrative of polarisation and division on the name of religion hasn't taken away our belief that we are part of the same family. If it hasn't destroyed our cohesion over the period, it won't now," says Duni Chand, the village elder adding, "Hussain, in whom we reposed our faith is not only capable of handling village issues but we also chose him to set an example in the society and show Hussain that he should not feel isolated."
"I am really feeling fortunate to be born in a village, where my elders have taken a bold decision, which is making me feel proud. I hope society as a whole will take a lesson from the decision our elders have made," said Harsh Singh (24) a postgraduate student.
The unanimous decision of the villagers, has not only made Hussain emotional, but he is also upbeat to work round the clock to improve the living conditions of the village with no communication links.
"We have been living in complete harmony and they never let me feel that I'm the only Muslim living in their village, but making me their Panch that too unopposed has taken their love and faith to a different level, for which I will be indebted to them for the rest of my life," said Hussain.