India - Saharanpur's Silver Lining: Sikh Businessman Helps Muslim Employees Celebrate Eid | SIKH PHILOSOPHY NETWORK
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India Saharanpur's Silver Lining: Sikh Businessman Helps Muslim Employees Celebrate Eid


Jun 1, 2004
Raghubeer Singh is hopeful that the tension in Saharanpur will soon dissipate. The 59-year-old businessman has set an example of harmony in the conflict-hit Uttar Pradesh town, helping his Muslim employees celebrate Eid with fervor.

Communal clashes between Muslims and Sikhs that broke out in Saharanpur on Saturday are no dampener on a "40-year-old bond", says Singh, who owns a woodcarving shop in the furniture market in the city.

"We understand the feelings and emotions of each other," adds Singh, who is a member of the Sikh community.

In the buzzing furniture market in Saharanpur, majority of the artisans involved in the trade are Muslims. Only a few of the shops are owned by Hindus or members of other communities. Sikhs own four such units, including that of Singh.

The industry has an annual turnover of Rs. 300 crore and its general secretary, Abdul Rehman, says "more than 30,000 people earn their livelihood from this industry".

With curfew being imposed in the town on Saturday following the clashes over a piece of land, Singh did not have a chance to pay his artisans a special Eid allowance.

"The town was reeling under tension, and my all efforts to reach out to my artisans on Saturday failed," Singh says.

But, that did not prove to be a deterrent. The next day, Singh made calls to some of his young artisans and asked them to meet at the showroom when the curfew was relaxed for a brief period.

Arranging the cash amount was his next challenge, as banks were under lock and key and ATM counters did not have enough money. However, some of Singh's friends and relatives came to his rescue.

"Fortunately, my nephew had some cash and we somehow managed to reach the showroom where most of my artisans gathered. We made the payments so that they could celebrate the festival of Eid with joy and passion along with their families," says Singh.

His nephew and business partner, Prabhjot Singh, 36, too played his part in bringing smiles on the faces of their employees. The two units owned by Singh and his nephew employ nearly 40 Muslim artisans.

And now the likes of Mohd Saif, Mohd Azim and Ejaz are happy and grateful.

"We (the artisans) were quite worried," said Azim, "It was not possible to celebrate the festival without money."

Insisting that the recent violence should not be seen as a Sikh-Muslim clash, Singh says, "The dispute was between Guru Singh Sabha and Nagar Nigam's ex-councilor Moharram Ali Pappu, who notoriously staked claim to the land which has been in possession of the Sabha since 1998."

The exhibition of brotherhood in Saharanpur's furniture market is, however, nothing new. For, the people of various communities working here have weathered the post-Babri Mosque demolition storm in 1991. This time, too, they believe the crisis will soon be over.

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