Catholic Charities online are raising $100,000 per hour after the disaster. A mosque in Chicago raised $80,000 in ten minutes. Humanity is showing its best colors. Several Muslim organizations with thousands of volunteer started helping victims and survivors immediately after the Indonesian earthquake and the resulting tsunami which hit Asia and Africa. However, their heroic efforts have largely gone unreported. Here is a one rare glimpse into their work in a remote Indian coastal village.
Caring has no religion, ask this Jamaat chief in a Cuddalore corner.
Mosque works overtime to take care of Hindu, Christian fisherfolk
RAJEEV P I
Posted online: Indian Express Thursday, December 30, 2004 at 0255 hours IST
CUDDALORE, DECEMBER 29: Rahmatullah is a tired man. He and his nephew have just returned to their masjid after burying an unknown Christian man, identifiable by the black thread with the little cross around the neck. They had not forgotten to put a makeshift bamboo cross on the burial mound.
He now needs to take the infant daughter of Shivakumar, both staying in the masjid, to the doctor. ‘‘Maaf karna, kaam bahut pada hai. Hamara president Younus saab se baath keejiye,’’ he says in Hindi, before going out.
In Cuddalore, the second hardest-hit town in Tamil Nadu when the killer waves came, a masjid and the local jamaat have emerged as the rallying point for thousands of fisherfolk—almost all of them Hindus and Christians. There are hardly any Muslim fishermen in Cuddalore, and most of the local Muslims are either traders—which explains the Hindi—or have NRI sons in the Gulf. There have been no Muslim casualties.
‘‘We came to know when people came running to the masjid, minutes after it happened. We decided to do what we could do,’’ says Mohammed Younus, president of the United Islamic Jamaat. ‘‘Isme kya badi baath hai?’’ he asks.
The administration is grateful. Says District Collector Gagandeep Singh Bedi: ‘‘They have been doing wonderful work, I was with them the whole last night.’’ Once the relief and rescue work is over, Bedi plans to write to the state government about their work.
Within minutes of the tsunami striking Pudukuppam, Samayarpettah, Chinnoor and other little villages along the Cuddalore coast on Sunday morning, Younus had summoned his flock. Within half an hour, his men had left their shops and homes for the beaches in their goods vans, cars, two-wheelers and cycles, picking up and rushing the injured to hospitals.
By noon the Jamaat on its own had organised milk for a few hundred babies, and food for over 3,000 survivors. By evening, about 3,000 Muslim men were tending to over 10,000 Hindus and Christians in makeshift camps in the local schools.
A few hundred of the survivors were invited to stay in the masjid, where they still stay. Many more are in the Jamaat’s school, and dozens occupy its office building.
For the last three days, the Jamaat has employed 24 cooks working round the clock to feed about 9,000-odd survivors. Some in the relief camps and others in the five battered villages. The administration provides the rice and milk, and the Jamaat buys the vegetables and everything else on its own. There are about 20,000 men under the Jamaat, and the huge community kitchens that it had been using for its frequent community feasts were immediately turned into relief kitchens.
As the bodies began piling up, Younus asked his men not to hesitate. And, for the last three days, they have been doing what might be unthinkable for many Muslims: carrying bodies on their own shoulders and cremating them. ‘‘To the possible extent, we have been making sure that the Hindu bodies are burnt, and Christians are buried. They should not feel offended in death,’’ Younus reasons.
Younus says he hadn’t slept or eaten well after the tragedy stuck. He has been running around five villages guiding his men, looking after the survivors, making things work.
It was only when the Army moved in yesterday to Pudukuppam, which suffered the heaviest toll, that the Jamaat withdrew from that village. But for the other four, it is still the only solace. ‘‘It’s all God’s will. Inshallah, they will all begin life well in a few weeks,’’ he says.
Younus says none of his over 3,000 men will leave until the survivors are back on their feet. ‘‘We will continue to raise money to feed them for as long as they need. They are welcome to be with us as long as they want,’’ Younus says.
© 2004: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) India Ltd.
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