Hindu mobs are attacking shrines at which people of many faiths have worshipped for centuries. A determined village shows how syncretic ways of living can still be revived

Vinayak Jadhav (wearing a Gandhi topi) with friends at the shrine in Malgaon. This shrine in Maharashtra’s Satara district has been around for centuries

By Parth M.N.

dargah located on a barren plateau has served Malgaon’s residents well. This shrine in Maharashtra’s Satara district has been around for centuries and has always been a refuge.

School children do their homework under the tree that leans against the dargah . Young men and women prepare for the competitive civil service examinations at the entrance – the only place where cool breeze flows during the scorching summers; aspiring policemen put themselves through rigorous fitness training sessions in the open space around.

“Even my grandfather has stories of it [the dargah ],” says Vinayak Jadhav, 76, a farmer with over 15 acres in the village. “Imagine how old it must be. Hindus and Muslims have maintained it together. It has been a symbol of peaceful coexistence.”

Things changed in September 2023. The much-loved shrine acquired a new meaning in Malgaon – a small but loud group of young men claimed it was an encroachment. They had been egged on by a coalition of Hindutva groups.

These Hindu residents of Malgaon aged between 20-25 wrote to the district administration, demanding to take down the “illegal encroachment”. Some of them had already destroyed the water tank next to it. “The Muslim community wants to usurp the public land around it,” their letter read. “The shrine is built against the wishes of the gram panchayat .”

This story was originally published in ruralindiaonline.org. Read the full story here.