Unfortunately, some flood relief work in Bhopal has been divided along communal lines. Seva Bharati, the social work wing of the RSS, distributes food only to Hindus and keeps away from communities such as Shaheen Colony, Sundar Nagar and PGBT College where most people are Muslims.
Meanwhile a group run by Muslims has been distributing biryani [rice cooked with meat] which Hindus won’t eat. This state of affairs began on the first day.
On the afternoon of the 14th residents of Rajgarh [a mixed community of Muslims and Hindus] organised a chakka jaam [blocking traffic] demanding medical care and monetary relief from the government.
A van carrying people from Seva Bharati attempted to cross the blockade and there was an altercation with the leader of the protesters who is himself a low caste Hindu.
The Seva Bharati people went back and roused their followers. About 1,000 of them came to Rajgarh Colony threatening violence. More than 100 were carrying swords. A large police force was present but they did nothing to stop those who were brandishing swords.
The tension diffused by early evening after the RSS followers were assured that police would take action against those who had stopped the Seva Bharati van. Since then about 15 residents of Rajgarh Colony, most of them Muslims, and their Hindu leader, have been arrested. Their families allege that some have been tortured in police custody. There is little doubt among the ordinary people that the arrests and torture have been ordered by higher-ups in the government that is run by the BJP hindu fundamentalist party.
Our teams came back around 4 pm and reported talking to about a hundred families who hadn’t eaten for two days. Many of their houses were completely submerged and all were among the very poorest residents.
At 5 pm we decided to pool our resouces. The first donation of 500 rupees came from Faisal, the local BBC correspondent. Sathyu put in another 500 and Shahid said he would raise the rest from people in his neighbourhood.
Shahid’s neighbours, who are all people with limited means, gave whatever they could. Mehra who runs a small store gave 25 kilos of wheat flour [aattaa]. Raju Bhai who runs a provision store gave another 25 kilos. Kaka who has a small store gave 5 kilos of oil. Maliram who runs the store next to Kaka’s gave 10 kilos of aataa.
Saleem Bhai, Ram Singh and Sharad each donated 50 rupees. Shahid’s aunt Akhtar Bee went out and bought 400 rupees worth of vegetables.
A Mr Gupta, who owns a roadside restaurant, donated his stove for the evening. Pappu Verma who has a “tent house” [he rents out marquees, chairs and utensils for weddings and parties] gave his cooking vessels for free.
Cooking began in front of the offices of the survivors organisations at around 8 pm and before midnight there was potato curry and puris [deep fried bread] for 600 people.
The cooking was done by two professional cooks who gladly donated their time and skills.
Firdaus, Aftab Bee, Guddu Bhai, Afsar, Verma, Chetan, Mehfuz, Raja, Satish, David, Parvati, Narayan Sarathe – Hindus, Muslims and a Christian – all helped together in chopping and washing and packing the food into individual packets.
The food was carried on a three wheeler “loading auto” free of charge by Kailash. Leaders of survivors organizations Hazra Bee, Syed M Irfan, Mira, Shahid Noor and supporter Vikas worked hard and with the help of local young men and women distributed the packets of puris and aloo curry to the hungry people.