Charminar under siege

Come every Friday and as the afternoon 'muzzien' wafts from the historic Mecca Masjid, Mohammed Khaiser, the flower-seller, is gripped by the fear of the looming conflict. Even as the faithful, mostly youth, rush adjusting their spotless white knitted 'namaz caps' , Khaiser leans on hopes that after a quick 10 minute prayers, there would be no heightened passion, something that has severely affected his business, not to mention his meagre savings.

For Vikram Dharwadkar who has come with his family to have a good look at the nearby Charminar, the icon of Hyderabad, a pat from the heavily armoured Rapid Action Force sergeant -'jaldi chaliye' ( move fast), drowns all his family's hope to climb up the 178-feet-high icon. Holding hands together, the family does a quick blink and moves towards the safer Gulzar House, even as his children turn their heads backwards for a fading second look at the Charminar.

Hyderabadi pearl seller Seth Ramsinghji sits outside his shop on the adjoining Machlikaman Road hoping for tourists to buy the famous beady pearl set; so does Rasool Miyan on the Lad Bazzar Road who waits for women and tourists to buy the equally famous 'lac bangles'.

For the past several months, Hyderabad's Old City — the area around Charminar area — has been sitting on a powder keg of strife which has led to sporadic scraps over the Bhagyalakshmi temple located on the South East corner. “For old timers of both the communities, it was not exactly a bone of contention till the other day,” says Roshan Sweets owner Mohammed Yousuf Hussain. “In fact, the Hindu women went around the Charminar with an 'aarti', and we shared 'sheerkorma'(a delicacy made of vermicilli) with our Hindu brethren on Eid-ul-Fitr. Our children burst crackers on Diwali and kite-flying during Sankaranti brought us much closer.”

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