Sixty-two-year-old Anita and her sister Saroj, 57, have won the hearts of thousands of Muslims in Kashipur, a small town in Udham Singh Nagar district of Uttarakhand. They fulfilled the final wish of their father, who died nearly 20 years ago, by donating 2.1 acres of land worth over Rs 1.2 crore to an Eidgah days before Eid al-Fitr, The Times of India reported on May 4.

Lala Brajnandan Rastogi, who died in his late 80s in 2003, was a farmer and owned some acres of land in Kashipur, a part of which went to Anita and Saroj after his death. It was only years later, during a conversation at home with some relatives, that the sisters got to know Lala wanted to give away a piece of the land to his “Muslim brethren” and that he had hesitated to express his wish before his children.

Recently, after discussing the matter with their kin, Saroj, who lives with her family in Meerut, and Anita, who is with hers in Delhi, came to Kashipur on May 1 to finally complete formalities for land transfer with the help of their brother Rakesh, a resident of Kashipur.

Rakesh said, “My father was a strong believer in communal harmony. He wished to donate the land to the Eidgah so that it could accommodate more people for namaz on festivals such as Eid. My sisters honoured his wish.”

Haseen Khan, president of the Eidgah Committee, called Lala “a man with a big heart” and said, “When he was alive, the committee would always take the first donation from him on all important occasions. Not only did he always give money generously, he also offered fruits and sweets to Muslim devotees. After his death, his son took after Lala and is now the first one to donate for such events.”

He added, “Lala and my father Mohammad Raza Khan were close friends for about 50 years. The two are no more but their belief in brotherhood has taught us a lot.”

The area, in fact, is an oasis of peace. Speaking about the brotherhood among different communities there, Khan said that the Eidgah is flanked by a gurdwara and a Hanuman temple. “But there has never been any incident of communal tension. Even today (Tuesday, May 3), the priest of the Hanuman mandir asked me about the timing of Eid prayers. When I informed him that it was at 9 am, he said he would turn down the temple’s loudspeaker because they had a morning aarti around the same time.”

Naushad Hussain, a member of the Eidgah Committee, said, “Lala Brajnandan and his family’s act was discussed in all the Muslim households in the vicinity. In the communally charged environment we live in now, we salute such generosity and true secularism. With such people among us, the country will never come to harm.”

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