CAIRO - Indian Muslim scholars are extending their hands to save a river sacred to the Hindus from pollution, which has been a cause of harm to millions of residents.
"The failure of various projects to make Ganges pollution-free following rampant corruption proves that only the involvement of common people of the country can save the river, Mukti Sangram Acharya Pramod Krishnan, convener of Ganges River, told Press Trust of India.
And the support of Muslims in this task is equally important.
Muslim scholars have thrown their weight behind a campaign to save the sacred Ganges River from pollution.
Terming the drive to clean the river as a "holy campaign", Maulana Saeedur Rehman, principal of Center of Islamic studies, said Ganges, though it is associated with Hindus, is not any less important for Muslims.
His position is also supported by Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangimahli, member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
Firangimahli said Ganges is a national river and that both Muslims and Hindus live on its banks and earn livelihood through it.
The religious leader appealed to all Muslims to contribute to render the river free of pollution, calling on the central government to create a new ministry for conservation of rivers.
Ganges is a trans-boundary 2,525 km (1,569 mi) river of India and Bangladesh.
The Ganges is the most sacred river to Hindus and is also a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs.
The river is worshiped by the Hindus as the goddess Ganga in Hinduism.
The Ganges was ranked among the five most polluted rivers of the world in 2007, with its pollution threatening not only humans, but also more than 140 fish species, 90 amphibian species and the endangered Ganges river dolphin.
Muslims and Hindus will work together to devise a plan on clearing the river.
"Soon we will sit together and formulate a joint work plan and also visit the areas on the banks of the river to create public awareness," Krishnan, the convener of the river, said.
Krishnan blamed the bridges built by the government for the pollution of the sacred river.
Citing National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), he said oxygen and other vital contents in the Ganges are getting destroyed gradually because of the seven bridges on the river.
"If the river is made free of bridges it would become pollution free," Krishnan said.
Muslims account for 160 million of India's 1.1 billion people, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.
The Muslim endeavor comes against strained relations between Hindus and Muslims in the country.
Deep-seated tensions between India's Muslims and Hindus flared when Hindu mobs demolished the 16th century Babri mosque in 1992.
More than 2,000 people were killed in ensuing ethnic violence between Hindus and Muslims over the mosque demolition.In 2002, hundreds of Muslims were hacked and burned to death in communal violence that broke after a fire accidentally flared up at a train.