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At one woman’s death, communities draw together in Jammu (Feature)

07:25 PM Jun 01, 2019 | Free Press Journal Correspondant

Jammu: As the media remains focused on a few miscreants trying to exploit the one-off communal flare-up in Kishtwar, saner voices and sentiments of the overwhelming majority of the people of Jammu region go unheard.

Jabeen Akhtar, 48, wife of a retired police officer, passed away in Marble Market locality here Tuesday after battling cancer. The area, like others in this winter capital, has been reeling under strict curfew enforced with the army’s assistance after communal clashes last week claimed three lives.

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Akhtar’s husband, Khalil-ur-Rehman, has been living in the Hindu-dominated Marble Market area for the last seven years. The family’s social relations, have however, extended beyond the boundaries of the area where they live. Most of the family’s friends and well-wishers belong to the city’s Hindu and Sikh communities.

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As news of Akhtar’s death reached the family’s friends and relatives, they simply ignored the fact that Jammu was reeling under an indefinite curfew and that they needed curfew passes to reach the bereaved family. “I told the security forces that whatever the consequences, I would not miss attending the funeral of my sister. They lifted the barricades when I told them that the Muslim woman who died in Marble Market area today was more than an elder sister for me,” said Harbans Singh, 48, a Sikh friend of the family.

Dozens of local Hindus and Sikhs were indistinguishable from the members of the bereaved family, as their moist eyes and crest-fallen behaviour indicated their grief was real. The mourners did not care for the heavy downpour that occurred when the body was being carried for burial from Marble Market area to the graveyard in Muslim-dominated Gujjarnagar, a distance of four km.

The mourners spoke of the motherly nature of the deceased woman, and the love and warmth she showed the family’s friends, irrespective of the religion they followed. The other thing mourners discussed during the condolence meeting at the family’s residence was the communal harmony among members of different communities in Jammu.

“Yes, the scars of 1947 had been left behind. For the last 66 years, we have lived in perfect harmony. Eid, Diwali and Gur Purab have been celebrated with exchange of sweets and greetings across communities.” “The problem with the media is that as stray incidents of communal violence are widely reported, the expressions of mutual trust and brotherhood often go unnoticed.

“The government also does little to highlight the real sentiments of the people who abhor and condemn communal violence in whatever form, each time it raises its ugly head,” said Vijay Khajuria, 59, another friend of the bereaved family. Others at the condolence meeting were equally optimistic of the two communities living in peace and amity.

“The scenes of communal harmony seen during this mourning prove the real strength and greatness of India. Aberrations like what happened in Kishtwar cannot hold the great traditions of brotherhood hostage,” said Amjad Parvaiz Mirza, who has been a colleague of the bereaved husband.

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