By: Ajai Srivastava
Shimla: Tears were floating in the eyes of poor old widow of Sheikh Abdul. But her face had a glimpse of great satisfaction and contentment. The holy flames of Havan in the backdrop of Shiva temple had ended her sorrows for ever. Tarsem Bharti, president of All India S.C and S.T. Mahasangh, washed her feet and the priest performed the Vedic rites.
After spending 55 years of her life as a Muslim, she returned to Hindu fold.
Her son, daughter-in- law and little grand daughter have also adopted Hinduism with her, ending the sad tale of this Muslim family on a positive note.
The story of Santosh, mother of two, is quite pathetic. A native of Uttar Pradesh, Santosh, now 68, became an orphan at the age of 13. Her relatives did not take the responsibility to look after the child and sent her with one Sheikh Abdul of Delhi. Talking to Himvani, she said, “I never knew that at the age of 13, I would get married and my husband would be a Muslim.” But one thing is notable that Sheikh Abdul did not persuade her to change her name so she continued to be known as Santosh.
She says, “I passed my whole life with a Muslim man. As a human being he was a good person. But I always thought that the time would definitely come when I would get an opportunity to return to my original faith. Now I am grateful to Tarsem Bharti who in the last phase of my life made my dream come true”.
About four decades ago she came to Shimla with her husband who worked as waiter in some restaurants. The couple was blessed with one son and one daughter. Her son Pappu (34) told, “When I was just in class 6th my father died in an accident. I remember I used to go to local Jama Masjid with him. But I had a special attraction for Hinduism like my mother. We wanted to become Hindu. But nobody helped us.” His mother had a very tough time after the death of Sheikh Abdul. Being an illiterate, she used to do petty work in the locality of Shoghi to earn her livelihood and to sustain the two kids. Pappu studied up till class 12 and after years of unemployment he recently found a part-time job of water carrier for himself in a local school. His sister Asma is married in Punjab. He said local people were very kind and helpful.
Why they became Hindu, on this question, Pappu said, “Every person is free to opt for any religion. Since my childhood my mother wanted to become a Hindu again. But she did not know how to change religion. I also had the same feeling. Now our dream is fulfilled.” This family lives in Anandpur near famous Taradevi Mandir near Shoghi in Shimla. The key role in this silent event was played by Dalit human rights activist and a BJP leader Tarsem Bharti. He said, “My focus is always on the protection of human rights of those who are from weaker sections of the society. If that family was feeling uneasy as Muslim and wanted to reconvert, they had every right to do so. I only provided them an opportunity.”
He also disclosed that he is in touch with several Muslim families in Solan and Bilaspur districts of Himachal Pradesh who were willing to come back to their original faith.
The re-conversion was held at a low profile ceremony. In February 2007, Tarsem Bharti was in the head lines when more than 150 dalit Christians returned to the fold of Hinduism. He had facilitated re-conversion of around 2600 Christians in this hill state, through Ghar-Wapsi ceremonies.