Kerala: Temple gives vegetarian iftar to Muslims who helped restore the building

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A temple in the Muslim-dominated Malappuram district of Kerala hosted an iftar party for Muslims fasting during the Ramzan month, in the midst of a row over a central notification governing cattle sales and slaughter throughout the nation, seen as an effort to target minorities.

The Shree Narasimhamoorthy Temple in Punnathala had enough reasons to hold such an event on its premises after Muslims generously loosened their wallet for the recent restoration job on its grounds.

The temple initially planned a mass banquet, but later altered its plan and chose to host an iftar-the meal during Ramzan with which Muslims break their fast. For the festival, on Wednesday at least 500 individuals thronged the temple hall and there was no non-vegetarian dish, of course.

T Asainar, a teacher, said, “For us, it is the festival of the area not of a particular community”  thereby summing up the bonhomie.

The neglected temple was in ruins when the renovation and deity restoration work was undertaken by the shrine commission and Muslims endorsed the move wholeheartedly. On Sunday, the leading deity’s centuries-old idol, Lord Vishnu in the Narasimha avatar, will be reinstalled.

PT Mohanan, the temple committee secretary said, “Here we live like a single family. We consult each other on important occasions. In fact, the suggestion to renovate the age-old temple came from some Muslim families of the area,” adding that Muslims bore a large amount of expenditure (around Rs 20 lakh).

Young people from both communities came together in large numbers during the temple renovation work and the iftar party during Ramzan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar when Muslims abstained from sunrise to sunset from food and water and joined mass prayers at mosques.

Mohanan said the small village was a classic instance of religious unity, and individuals who always believe and operate on communal lines should learn from it.

In a notification announced last week, the government said that cows and buffaloes cannot be sold on animal markets across India for slaughter, enabling only farmland owners to trade on animal markets.

Banning the sale of cows, bulls, buffaloes, bullocks, heifers, steers, calves, and camels, the notification has caused a political storm in India. Milch cow slaughter is prohibited in all states except in Kerala and parts of northeastern India.

Cows, regarded holy by many Hindus, are a delicate political issue and have become increasingly important since Prime Minister Narendra Modi stormed to power in 2014 and several BJP-ruled states have implemented rigorous legislation to punish cow slaughter.

But many claims that expanding bovine protection is a proxy war against Dalits and Muslims – as evidenced by the April lynching of dairy farmer Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan or last year’s caning of Dalit men in Gujarat’s Una.

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