GUWAHATI: At a time when Bollywood actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui was not allowed to take part in the Ramleela programme in Uttar Pradesh on count of being a Muslim, here in Assam Muslim artistes are busy making idols for Durga puja and Dussehra.

Young Shariful Islam is busy giving the finishing touches to the idols for Dussehra at Nehru Stadium in Guwahati for the last several days , as he has indeed done so for the past several years.

Shariful believes in ‘service to humanity and respecting others’ religion’.

“I have been doing this since 2012. First I’m a human being then an Indian and only then religion comes to me. The organizers have also given me due respect,” said Shariful who belongs to a village called Bechimari in Darrang district, some 100 odd kilometre from state capital.

Besides Shariful, there are other Muslims whose participation in Durga Puja has drawn media attention at a time when religious intolerance in India is escalating.

Meet Nuruddin Ahmed, a devotee of ‘Beauty’ and the main architect of a Durga Puja Pandal in Assam’s Guwahati and very proud of it.

“I’m an artist. For me religion, caste, creed all these do not matter at all. I’m a worshiper of beauty and I’m happy if the people are happy with my creation,” Ahmed said.

The 59 year old artiste has created a stunning 82 feet Durga idol at Bishnupur Puja. He has been doing so for the last six years.

Besides, he has also designed and choreographed the Ramleela themes for several other prominent puja committees.

“I think this is the real sense of being an Indian and especially in Assam, Puja is just a celebration of joy and happiness. We mingle with all and everybody here to make it a memorable one. We all are same and we enjoy every festival. Only a section of people with some other interests or the politicians try to divide us by using some specific terms,” said Ahmed whose elder son Deep Ahmed also assisted him in the project.

Most of his fellow workers who have worked day and night to complete the pandal are Muslims but all this does not seem to matter. In fact, the organizing committee has no problem with Ahmed’s religious beliefs.

“He may be a Muslim but we respect him as an artist and we are happy that he has agreed to work with us. We are thankful to Ahmed ji for making such a wonderful design which has attracted a huge number of visitors to our pandal,” said Sanjay Pal, a member of the committee.

And the list does not end here. Moni Ahmed, a constable with Assam police at 9th APBn, Barhampur in Nagaon district worked relentlessly for more than 11 months to finish a 9.5 feet Durga idol made of wood last year.

“Religion never came to my mind and the people around me as well have never given any kind of such feel. Though I am a Muslim, for me every form of God is sacred and I have deep respect,” Moni Ahmed said.

Despite some politics, this camaraderie is not new to the people. “Such kind of participation keeps the communal harmony alive here. It’s unfortunate that some sections these days try to bring division in the society in the name of religion. I hope everyone lives peacefully and with love,” said Abdul Kadir Khondkar, a veteran school teacher in Goalpara district who is an advisor to the puja committee in his locality.