Wednesday, February 1

In Bengal, Muslim man performs last rites of Hindu colleague

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A Muslim schoolteacher from Banerhat, a sleepy town in Dooars in north Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district, shaved his head and moustache to perform the last rites of a former Hindu colleague. The deceased — Sanjan Kumar Biswas — is survived by three daughters.

Ashfaque Ahmed, his wife and nine-year-old son observed a period of mourning (Oshouch) for 11 days, a ritual followed by immediate family members of the deceased in a Hindu family. Ahmed then hired a priest to perform the last rites of Biswas, a former teacher of Banerhat High School, where he taught till his retirement in 2005. Ahmed still teaches at the school.

Ahmed, who considered Biswas his mentor and guide, had received the work education teacher’s unstinted support when he was appointed as an English teacher at the school in 1999.

“The school was celebrating its golden jubilee. I was appointed that year. There were many who were opposed to my appointment on account of my religion. But Biswas firmly stood by me. He asked me to ignore the barbs and even let me put up at his place for a few days till I got an accommodation of my own. He believed in humanity, not religion. That is the lesson that I learnt from him,” Ahmed recalled.

Mukul Burman, a science teacher at the school, said Biswas had left an indelible mark on many but it was Ahmed whose life he had touched the most. “Biswas would bring the best out of a person. Even after his death, he has brought the best out of Ahmed,” he said.

The fact that Ahmed’s own father was alive in Murshidabad’s Kandi did not come in the way of his decision. He says he was supported by his wife and son, who also revered Biswas.

“I am a liberal man and it’s all because of Biwas sir. I always say that I have three fathers: my biological father, my teacher and Biswas. I am grateful to him for the liberal thoughts,” he added.

Ahmed, who performed the last rites on Sunday after shaving his head on the banks of Diana river, doesn’t bother what people say. “I have done what I needed to do. And I have done it for the person who deserved respect,” said Ahmed.

Source: Times of India

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