Twelve years ago, when riots ripped Mumbai, an ugly divide cleaved Dharavi’s slum too. From its ashes rose two sane voices that spoke of communal harmony. One was Bhau Korde’s, the other Waqar Khan’s.
Together, for over a decade, they have worked tirelessly to bridge stretched relations between the Hindu and Muslim communities of Dharavi. So when Gujarat rocked post-Godhra, their good work made sure Dharavi suffered no repeat.
Korde, 66, a retired school administrator, was born in Dharavi. After retirement, he put his soul into its uplift. Khan, 38, set foot in Mumbai as a 14-year-old from Aonna in Bareily, Uttar Pradesh. Initially, he sold bananas and now runs a small shop of ready-made clothes in Dharavi and works for the same cause.
Both met when the Dharavi Mohalla Committee was created by then Mumbai police commissioner Satish Sawhney in the backdrop of the 1993 riots.
Together, they have tried to bring peace to Dharavi. Something that Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences turned into a 45-minute documentary called Naata, which was shot over two years beginning 2001.
The documentary has got rave reviews in film festivals in India and abroad.
‘‘Bhau and Waqar’s amity is a celebration of secularism,’’ says Anjali. The film is interwoven with glimpses of the couple’s inter-religious marriage. ‘‘We had to go through a similar situation over which religion to follow while rearing our daughter Kalyani,’’ says Anjali. Bhau and Waqar do not want credit for Dharavi’s peace.
‘‘What we started was backed by eager residents,’’ they say. ‘‘There was a time when the communities in Dharavi did not see eye to eye,’’ says Korde, adding, ‘‘now, the Ganesh mandals are headed by Muslims, and Id trusts by Hindus.’’
‘‘I don’t sell secularism. I spread harmony through dialogue between the communities,’’ says Waqar. So much so, that Waqar made the hour-long Ektaa Sandesh also shot in June 2001.
The film has Bollywood songs and snippets on patriotism and comments by well-known people. ‘‘Over 2,000 CDs were sent to Gujarat after the riots,’’ says Waqar. He funded posters and stickers featuring four boys as Christian, Sikh, Muslim and a Hindu.
‘‘All the boys are Muslims. My son is the Hindu pandit in the sticker because no one else was willing to shave his head,’’ Waqar recalls.