27 September, 2020

Temple Trustee

A Muslim schoolteacher fights to preserve a crumbling heritage

Temple Trustee

IT looks like any other nondescript village in interior India, with dirt tracks and trees as dry as timber in high summer. But a closer look at Midnapore, in the Hatihalka cluster of villages, about seven km from the district capital, reveals the soul within the drab landscape.

 Dotted around are ruins of medieval terr-acotta temples, relics of a vanished civilisa-tion. In some, trees have taken root, in others discarded machines and junk are piled high. Hamstrung by their constricting present, the locals seem unable to protect their glorious past. "If the temples are standing today, it is because of the labours of our Pathan," locals say. The reference is to Mohammad Yasin, a Muslim protecting Hindu temples, an unusual phenomenon particularly in the light of the Babri Masjid demolition. Clearly, there’s more to Hatihalka than meets the eye.

Yasin, a frail local schoolteacher, is possessed by the passion to preserve the temples. "I was always haunted by the ruins—what kind of people lived on the same soil we now tread,...



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