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This report is taken from PN Review 165, Volume 32 Number 1, September - October 2005.

Crown of Scars Tabish Khair

'We have broken a mosque and made a temple,' Mahesh Patel, a Hindutva supporter, said to a reporter in the summer of 2002. He added, 'We used hammers. Muslims should not live in India. They should go to Pakistan.'

But the building that was torn down by Hindutva fanatics on 1 March 2002, one of many demolished during the BJP government-supported anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, had not been a mosque. It was the tomb of a seventeenth-century poet, sometimes called the Chaucer of Urdu poetry. Vali Mohammed Vali, also known as Vali Gujarati, had died in Ahmedabad in 1707 and the tomb had been built for him by the residents of the city. It must have been a tribute to his popular poetry as well as recognition of his love for the region of

Gujarat and Ahmedabad, which he once celebrated in these lines:

It shines among cities, who would not make
A world to house it simply for its sake?

It's known by the name of Surat; its sight
From human hearts all animus does rake.

Numberless creeds and countless are the faiths
Of its inhabitants: Adam's mistake

Has bred so many colours of skin here,
Beauty pervades its people like a lake.

Such beauty that the court of Lord Indra
Would trail behind, abashed in its wake.

If Vali had been told that Ahmedabad ...

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