Tales of religious harmony and friendship can be found in every corner of Borhanuddin
Gowrango Dey and Kabir Uddin do not practise the same religion, but it did not stop them from becoming childhood best friends. The inseparable duo from Bhola are now over 60 years old.
Gowrango is a businessman while Kabir was the headmaster of a primary school in Borhanuddin upazila.
A pious Muslim, Kabir almost never missed a daily prayer for the past 20 years. Gowrango, a devout Hindu, actively participates in organising pujas every year.
Their friendship has gone through shaky grounds numerous times, but never even once they attacked each other's religion. The duo's love for religion is only matched by their brotherly love for each other.
The mutual respect between Gowrango and Kabir is not a rare sight, their tale of religious harmony and friendship can be found in every corner of Borhanuddin.
In the past years, no Muslim has ever hurt the religious sentiment of a Hindu in the region, and no Hindu has ever engaged in such a heinous act.
On Sunday, four people were killed and hundreds were injured in Borhanuddin in clashes between police and local people demonstrating for punishment of Biplob Chandra Baidya who they claimed had hurt their religious sentiment by a Facebook post.
But just a Facebook post will never break the peaceful and non-communal spirit of Bhola residents. The friendship and harmony built over the decades will endure any storm.
"We have been living in this village for generations spanning hundreds of years. I have never witnessed any incident centring religious issues in the area…until now," Gowrango shared his views with The Business Standard.
"I visit my Muslim friends' homes during Eid and other festivals. They also visit my home during pujas, especially during Durga Puja. This is the local culture. Our positive relationship with the Muslim community cannot be expressed in words. We never lived under fear."
Stating that he has been living in the area with comport and respect for ages, Gowrango said, "I am now more than 60 years old. I faced some hardships in 1992, but it was an international issue, not a local one.
"We, the people of Borhanuddin, uphold humanity above all else, not religion."
Kabir Uddin said, "We are proud of the people of Borhanuddin because of their unflinching respect for communal harmony. Gowrango is my childhood best friend.
"We will continue to live here together with communal harmony and mutual respect. We will never fall prey to communalism and defend our way of life till our deaths."
Unprecedented set of events
The local Hindu community leaders are still concerned and reluctant to comment on the recent incident.
A leader of the Hindu community preferring not to be named said, "The Hindus living in the area never faced any problems from the Muslims, except in 1992. But that was an international issue.
"The Hindu and Muslim communities in Borhanuddin get along just fine. We have a good non-communal atmosphere. The communal harmony in this area was much better than anywhere else in the country. But the debacle caused by the Facebook post damaged our relationship."
Adding that he is grateful to the Muslim community of Borhanuddin, he further said, "Following Sunday's violent incident, no one [Muslims] has hurled abusive at us [Hindus]. It is hard to imagine, but it is true.
"Many of them [Muslims] stood beside us. No Muslim went to Biplob's home to humiliate his family. Some people vandalised the temple in Bhalwal Bari, but they did it after not getting treatment at the Borhanuddin Upazila Health Complex."
The religious leader reiterated his determination for continuing the long-time friendship between Hindus and Muslims.
"Definitely a certain quarter has been trying to break the communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims. After the 2001 election, some Hindu families were tortured under political motives, but not for any communal issues," he added.
Md Kabir Chowdhury, headmaster of Kutuba High School, said after the Babri Masjid incident some Muslims attacked and vandalised some houses belonging to Hindus. The situation was very dangerous at that time, but it was the influence of the incident in India.
"We formed a team to save the Hindus. We convinced most of the Muslims to refrain from engaging in vandalism and torture."
He continued, "My father was a member of parliament during the Pakistani regime. He was directly involved with the reconciliation programme. We sheltered more than 60-70 families in our homes. Later, we built new homes for them.
"At one stage, the local Muslims realised their mistake and sought forgiveness from the Hindu community."
Local residents Afnan Patwari and Chhoton Dey are friends for 15 years. They have known each other since they were children and never even once they considered their religion as a barrier between them.
"We are friends and our friendship is important to us. Afnan performs his religious duties and I do mine, too. None of my friends and seniors have ever shown a shred of communal attitude to us. We are happy to live in Borhanuddin," Chhoton said.
"In my six-month tenure at the Borhanuddin police station, I never received any complaints on a communal issue," said Officer-in-Charge M Enamul Haque.
Such tales of harmony are proof that the people of Borhanuddin will prevail over the petty attempt to bring hatred into the community.