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Hindu villagers escorted Muslim baraat in Uttar Pradesh

The anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CCA) protests in Uttar Pradesh and killing of two protesters on December 21 had created a precarious situation for the Khan family of Kanpur’s Bakarganj, which was to solemnize the wedding of their daughter, Zeenat with Hasnain Farooquee from Pratapgarh. When families of both the bride and the groom were contemplating to postpone the wedding, Vimal Chapadiaya, a neighbor, heard Khan’s plight and wanted to help the families in this moment of crisis. Chapadiaya got along two friends, Somnath Tiwari and Neeraj Tiwari and assured Husnain not to worry. As promised, 50- odd Hindu villagers led by Chapadiya formed a human chain around the barrat on its arrival them and took them to the wedding venue, a km. away.

“We will escort the baraat the entire time to ensure their safety.”

But on the morning of, the groom called to say he didn’t know how to get his baraat to the curfew-hit area. There was violence and panic in the city and he was worried.

After the phone conversation with Hasnain ended, Zeenat’s paternal uncle Wajid Fazal turned to the family and wondered if the festivities should stop for the time being. The elders sat in a huddle. No one had any clue what to do next. He knew he had to do something. Chapadiya soon got and spoke to Husnain. “Don’t worry”, he told the young man.

In the evening, 70 baraatis arrived at Bakarganj Chauraha in cars and a mini-bus. Once they stepped down, 50-odd Hindus led by Chapadiya formed a human chain around them and took them to the wedding venue, a km. away.

“Vimal and his friends ensured that the baraat were fine. They even stayed back until the bidai (departure of the bride), “Fazal told TOI on Wednesday as Zeenat, who had returned to pay her family a visit, smiled. The first thing she did upon reaching her house was to go and look for “Vimal bhaiya’. She thanked him and sought his blessings for her married life.

“I didn’t get a wink of sleep in the ddays leading up to my marriage,” said Zeenat, who lost her father when she was 12. “A wedding scheduled in the area had been cancelled as the groom’s family refused to come since the situation was so tense. That morning, when my uncle received the call, I had given up all hope that my wedding could take place. Without Vimal bhaiya’s intervention, the baraat would not have reached here. He came like a farishta (angle) in my life.”

Chapadiya, who works as an administrator in a private school, said that he merely did what he felt was right. “I have seen Zeenat grow up. She is like my younger sister. How could I let her heart be broken? We are neighbours and I had to stand with the family in times of distress, “he said.

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