The Telegraph
Tuesday , April 12 , 2011
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Democracy unites faiths at mosque

Guwahati, April 11: The old Pakka Masjid today became an impromptu symbol of religious integration when hundreds, cutting across religion and gender — mosques conventionally do not allow congregation of non-Muslims and women — gathered on its premises to cast their votes.

Machkhowa Majadia LP School, an Islamic educational institution situated beside Pakka Masjid on FA Road, was one of the polling centres in East Guwahati constituency, with 1,248 voters.

The polling station recorded 70 per cent turnout.

People’s faith in democracy seemed to have ruled out every other consideration, as voters queued up patiently near the mosque to be part of the carnival of franchise.

For Uma Lohia and Parveshwari Devi Lohia, both in their fifties, it was not a mosque’s premise but just a venue to cast their votes.

“The thought that I was standing on a mosque’s premises did not cross my mind even for a fraction of second. And why should it come to my mind?” Uma asked.

Deepak Bhuyan, a government employee, on the other, enjoyed the ambience of the mosque as he waited to cast his vote.

He said the large turnout at the booth was an evidence of the strength of Indian democracy.

“We are Indians who believe in democracy. It is not important whether polling is held on the premises of a mosque or a temple or a church,” Bhuyan said.

Some like Jesim Ahmed, a local resident, even tried analysing the trend.

He said people of Machkhowa were not only politically conscious but also believed in peaceful co-existence of all sections of society.

He said there was no rift among residents in the area over religion, caste and creed.

Then there were those like 20-year-old Shaheen Ahmed who has never visited a mosque but considers it her “religious” duty to vote.

A student of political science, Shaheen said a mosque premises being a polling centre cannot come in her way of her exercising her franchise.

The celebration of democracy did not come in the way of the mosque’s operations either.

“The daily religious rituals like reciting the azan (call to prayer) and namaz were performed without any hurdle at the mosque during the time of polling,” Mohd Abdul Majid Kasimi, the imam of the mosque said.

He said even though the mosque premises had been used as a polling booth earlier too, this time the turnout was higher.

Himangshu Deka, an official in-charge at the polling station, said the day went off smoothly and people from different faiths cast their votes.

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