Odisha Special

Meet Odisha’s Muslim Youth Whose Resolve Helped Make This Puri Rath Yatra Possible

Nayagarh: Aftab Hossen, a young Muslim from Nayagarh, had filed one of the several intervention applications, asking the Supreme Court to review its own order, wherein it had said stayed Puri Rath Yatra in light of COVID-19.

In fact, Aftab was the first to file a modification plea on June 19, a day after the Supreme Court order came. In his petition Aftab, through his lawyer Pranay Mohapatra, urged the court to allow conduct of the Rath Yatra only in Puri by the temple servitors and without the participation of devotees.

According to Aftab, Odisha is identified worldwide for Lord Jagannath, which is why his annual sojourn – the Rath Yatra is quintessential.

A Muslim youth, fighting vehemently for conducting a Hindu festival might sound slightly unusual. But in case of Aftab it is true. For him humanity and statehood is beyond religion. Lord Jagannath’s Rath Yatra is undoubtedly the most important festival of Odisha and it binds the people of the State, he said.

Aftab, a final-year student of BA (Economics), is being referred to as the second Salabega of Odisha. Salabega, a Muslim, was an ardent devotee of Lord Jagannath. Aftab is influenced by Lord Jagannath since his childhood and his late grandfather Multab Khan was also a devotee.

Aftab’s father Imdad Hussain, mother Rashida Begum and younger brother Anmol have never opposed him worshipping the idol of Jagannath. However, he has not visited the Srimandir because only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple in Puri.

Aftab’s petition opposed Odisha Vikash Parishad which sought a stay on the festival. He joined an elite club of 21 persons and organisations who moved the apex court to recall its order that stayed the historic Lord Jagannath’s yatra. Such was the confidence of this young Odia Muslim boy, that he was sure of the Supreme Court ruling in their favour.

The Supreme Court would allow Rath Yatra once it gets to know the fact that the managing committee is in favour of conducting it on a limited scale in the absence of devotees, he had said.

Aftab said his grandfather had constructed a Trinath (Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar) temple at Itamati in 1960. He said that he has also read several books on Lord Jagannath and developed devotion towards him through his childhood. The people of Odisha have developed a natural affinity towards Aftab.

Puri Gajapati Maharaj Dibyasingh Deb has praised Aftab for his resolve for Rath Yatra in Puri. Aftab’s Facebook account defines him as a researcher of Jagannath culture. He goes on to add Humanity is his religion and we are all one and inseparable.

“The young boy has a great contribution in keeping our self-respect and Odia pride intact. He has served the Lord after all,” a Nayagarh resident said.

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