Trustee of ‘little India’ in Jerusalem meets President Mukherjee

Ramallah (Palestine), Oct 12 (IANS) For more than 800 years, a little enclave in Jerusalam has been the symbol of India in this part of the world and this institution’s trustee, who holds an Indian passport, called on President Pranab Mukherjee with his family here on Monday.

The legend goes that the revered Indian Sufi saint Wali Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar, who was born in 1173 as a direct descendant of Omar, the second caliph of Islam, came to Jerusalem as part of an 18-year journey to holy lands.

Baba Farid, as he came to be known later, eventually returned to India.

While in Jerusalem, local Muslims offered him two rooms to stay, next to a mosque. And so revered was he that after his departure, the two rooms themselves became a pilgrimage site for travellers, notably Indians and Pakistanis, who were visiting Jerusalem.

Many of such visitors also donated funds, slowly turning it into a care-giving lodge. The rooms still exist today.

But the site itself has over the centuries expanded to 7,000 sq mts, giving shelter to thousands of pilgrims from the subcontinent who come to this holy city — and is aptly called the Indian Hospice.

The current trustee who manages the property is Sheikh Mohammad Munir Ansari, 86, whose father had migrated to Jerusalem in 1924 from Saharanpur in what is now the state of Uttar Pradesh to manage the property. Ansari, who has been managing the Indian Hospice’s affairs for 63 years now, was conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2011.

“I am an Indian. I carry an Indian passport like my father and my children. I am proud to be an Indian,” Ansari told journalists, ahead of his tete-a-tete with President Mukherjee.

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