Gopal was aware of the route to Dhaka but had little comprehension of how long it would take to make it to the Hindu homeland, India. Travelling ten hours a day by foot would take a week to get to the border, that is assuming they could get help with food along the way. He was tempted to return to his home and dig up family savings but after seeing violence that took his family’s life at the hands of the mob finally concluded it wouldn’t be safe to travel there.
He and his sisters were about to leave when there was a knock at the front door. They quickly hid in the linen room while the para-medic in charge of the hospital went to a window to view the front door in dim light of the bulb above the entrance door. Seeing there was no mob there he opened the door and the one knocking fell on the doorstep. He was severely wounded and unable to rise. The para-medic pulled him inside and quickly shut the door calling to one of his Christian helpers.
They took him to theatre and began an examination. The man was covered in cuts and bruises and barely able to speak. The para-medic did not have a doctor’s experience and knowledge but had watched to learn as each foreign doctor had shared their knowledge. The para-medic probed gently to try and determine if there was internal damage and while the patient winced, he gave no complaint. Examination complete the para-medic sat and stared at the patient wishing he were equipped with a doctor’s training and knowledge. He could fix many health issues, but internal damage was beyond his limited talent.
Gopal motioning his sisters to stay hidden crept into the examining room to see if he knew who’d come in for treatment at such a late hour. He crept in and startled the para-medic who wearily told him he shouldn’t be in this area as it was to be kept infection clear. Gopal nodded and was about to leave when he noticed something familiar about the patient. He went in closer to look despite attempts to be held back. He sucked air in shock. It was his brother Ashish.
Ashish noticed a shadow suddenly appear above him and opened his eyes. It was his brother Gopal. His efforts to reach there had not been in vain. His eyes flicked to his knotted garment and when Gopal failed to understand the signal, he raised his arm painfully to touch the knot then whispered softly. Suddenly Gopal understood. He untied the knot while the para-medic looked on questioningly. There still dirty from a hasty excavation was all the family buried savings. Ashish again pointed his finger at Gopal and waved then closed his eyes. By next morning Ashish was dead.
As they’d lingered until their brother died Gopal and his sisters hid in a locked room through the next day. They anticipated leaving the next night and heading for Dhaka. Now they had money it would make their journey much easier but beyond Dhaka Gopal had no idea what the best way to get to India would be, or for that matter if they’d be allowed to enter.
Next day the Imams of the village Mosques met together to try and make sense of the carnage the previous day. In an hour of questionings around the village they were able to find the mob had been incited by rumors Hindus had desecrated a Mosque. None of the Imams had knowledge of any desecration and continued to probe. Eventually the source of rumors was traced to a group of village leaders who had they eyes on Hindu property.
The Imams summoned them to a meeting and eventually pulled the truth out of them. They were unrepentant. They’d done it in the name of God and that was their excuse. No infidels had a right to live in their village.
The Imams shook their heads sadly. They understood the depth of feeling over those migrations at the time of partition, but their village Hindus had chosen to stay and live among them. They were part of the village family and had rights. They told leaders they’d be making a report to Dhaka and they could expect the severest punishment for inciting a mob to do this terrible thing. The leaders begged to be forgiven and agreed to reinstate all properties confiscated.
Guessing that any Hindu would probably take refuge in the Christian hospital Imams walked there and went inside to talk with the in-charge paramedic. They were appreciative of the work done by the hospital to benefit their village and quickly put the man’s mind at ease. They explained what had happened and what they’d done to try and rescue the situation including their actions against ring leaders.
They inquired if there were any Hindu’s there and after learning most of them had fled were even more sorrowful. They learned the Christian community had taken refuge there and asked to meet all those who were there as refugees. They assured there would be no further incidents and that pressure placed on any of them should be reported to the Imams who would defend them and act against aggressors. They’d send messages of reassurance to Hindus in communities along the river and invite those fleeing to come back and take their rightful place in the village once again.
Gopal gave salaam to the Imams and thanked them for their intervention. This was a new turn of events. He asked permission for one of the Imams to accompany him to his father’s property to access damage and see if it were safe to go back. What if this should happen again despite the Imam’s intervention? How could he and his sisters run the property by themselves now there was no family to help? What had happened to his father’s cows? Grief took the place of terror now and he wept uncontrollably.
When they arrived, they found families had occupied his father’s property. The Imam drove them off with the curses of heaven sending them scurrying on their way. It was Gopal’s property now. No longer would there be any encroachment of property, no more need for night watch duty to see it didn’t happen. The fear of the Imams was on the community as they reflected on loss of life they’d inflicted for no good purpose. All cows were returned with a substitute for the one eaten in victory the night before. Gopal and his sisters decided to trust the Imams and stay.
When it came time for rice planting season Gopal wondered how they could plant the area which previously served a whole family. Then the Imam who’d accompanied him back home arrived with villagers who’d given encouragement in the stoning of Gopal’s family. Those who’d taken an active part in the murders had been judged and sentenced long ago. Under the watchful eyes of the Imam the paddy fields were planted and when it came time for harvest the Imam appeared again with his conscripts. This would be repeated each time of planting and harvest until through contacts in the various Hindu communities on the river the sisters were settled in marriage and Gopal and his future wives produced heirs to manage the property themselves. Never again were those terrible scenes repeated in the village Deviganj.
As there was no further possibility of bringing in foreign doctors the Christian hospital remained as a clinic until eventually a local Christian doctor could be encouraged to use that facility as a private practice. As the village grew eventually this was supplemented by a small government hospital.
Once again Hindus and Moslems in the village of Deviganj lived peacefully together under watchful eyes of the Imams..
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