Usually I refrain from posting images of myself with the people, for the people are the central focus of this work. However this is an important image for me, since in the image are three of the most important people for me in India. I am truly honored to be with these incredible men, and hope that our interfaith efforts can gain traction immediately.
The idea is to promote unity rather than division in this hotbed of sectarian violence. My first exposure to the area was in 2013, when I was invited to photograph the refugees of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. They were living in tents on the lands of a most generous population, for the local farmers offered their lands without question. The government had yet to do anything at that time, and to this day has done next to nothing as well.
Two of the men in this image offered their own land as well, and continue to do so to this day. They are now focusing on establishing schools in their region, and especially in their village. They brought up the idea of a collaboration, by offering the existing school building and their cooperation in bringing the leaders together.
My dear friend Nirvana, the second person from the left in this image, was also deeply interested in an interfaith effort and presented this to me earlier this year. So when I visited the villages, I spoke with the community regarding this proposal... and they accepted with open arms. Nirvana and his team visited the villages, and were welcomed by an event at the main school.
The leaders spoke at a beautiful event in the mosque, and invited both Nirvana and myself to do the same. While the language was foreign to me, the reactions on the people's faces spoke volumes for me. It was evident to me that all were on the same page, and the feeling was sublime. We hope that we can gain funding for this worthy project, and that we can return in early 2017 with this great news!