Hindus, Muslims come together to shift an Assam minaret

The minaret of Puranigudam mosque in Nagaon being shifted from the middle of the National Highway 37. Photo by Subhamoy Bhattacharjee

When politicians in Assam resorted to polarisation to pass the Lok Sabha elections, Hindus and Muslims in Puranigudam, a small town in central Assam's Nagaon district, joined hands to shift minaret of a 102-year-old mosque, facing eviction for expansion of a highway. 

After two months of struggle, the minaret was successfully shifted on Saturday from the National Highway 37 and reinstalled 75 feet away.

"We were very sad when National Highway Authority of India set February 21 for the demolition of the minaret saying it was not possible to divert the highway work due to space constraint. It was disappointing as both Hindus and Muslim residents of Puranigudam have been fighting for its preservation since 2015. But  Wakil Ahmed, an engineer from Jorhat district, one day informed us about a Haryana-based firm, which can help us shift the minaret," Habibur Rahman, secretary of Anjuman-E-Islamia, an organisation leading the joint initiative told DH on Monday.

"Through video calling, we spoke to Gurdeep Singh Chouhan, the engineer of the firm, who assured us that it was possible to shift it," he said.

A team of workers from the firm, R and R Sons, reached Puranigudam on March 6 and started work three days later. “They first dig five feet around the minaret and lifted it by using a hydraulic system. Since the original structure was constructed with bamboo rods and bricks pasted with clay and lime, instead of cement, they were successful in lifting it without any damage. The public support was so spontaneous that people from all religion came forward, donated money and helped us. They displayed the long communal harmony in Puranigudam or in most parts of Assam, in which we always take pride," Rahman said.

The minaret of Puranigudam Mosque was constructed in 1909 with the help of popular mason from Dhaka, Bangladesh. But the expansion of the NH-37 that connects Nagaon and upper Assam districts led to the demolition of some buildings, which were part of the mosque. "We all fought for the protection of the minaret as it is old, archaeologically important and a centre of communal harmony," he said.

They have now decided to raise the height of the minaret by five feet as the highway would also be heightened.

Elections for 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam held in three phases in April saw polarisation attempts to garner votes.

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