The polarisation is more or less complete. In Varanasi, you are either with Narendra Modi or you are not with Narendra Modi. Needless to say, the ‘Hindu’ stands solidly behind Narendra Modi. And, without doubt, the Muslim wouldn’t touch Modi with a barge pole. The polarisation is stark...
It’s very hot. The ‘loo’ of the Gangetic Plains is harsh. There’s no escape from it. The afternoons burn. It’s on an afternoon that we meet Baarik Raza, in Kaiser Jahan Manzil, his single-storey abode in Shahanzapur in south Varanasi. He was a freedom-fighter who was deprived his freedom-fighter’s pension. “Nobody cares,” he tells dna.
Raza, a fairly well-known Shayar (poet) in Purvanchal till a decade ago, puts his thoughts on the Hindu-Muslim divide in Varanasi in verses. “...Dil Nahi Piglega Kasayi Ka/Siyasati Ka Dil Bhi Kasayi Ka Dil Se Kam Nahi Hota/Maren Lakhon-Hazaaron Par Inhe Koyi Gam Nahi Hota (There’s no mercy in the politician. His heart is that of the butcher’s. No matter whether lakhs or thousands die, there’s no remorse in them).”
Baarik says he was referring to politicians in general but the drift of where he was going, and who he was referring to, is as clear as the water he offers us to drink. “Musalmaan Bikhara Hua Hai Banaras Mein. Purana Daancha Tha Congress. Abhi Daancha Hai Samajwadi Party Ka. Aage Kya Hoga Pata Nahin... Madani Ko Dekho... BJP Tak Ke Liye Bol Diya. (The Muslim of Varanasi is adrift. There was the Congress once. Now there’s the Samajwadi Party. What’s in store nobody knows... Look at Madani.. He’s speaking, even for the BJP).”
Asked of his preference among the parties, Baarik says with bitter emphasis, “Hum Kisi Ko Pasand Nahi Karte... Jinone Jaan Diya Hai Watan Ke Liye, Wohi Bata Sakte Hain Azaadi Ki Keemat Kya Hai. Aaj Gandhiji Zinda Hote Toh Batate Azadi Kya Hota Hai. (I do not favour any of them... Only Those who have given their lives for the country can tell what’s the cost of freedom. If Gandhi was alive today, he would have told you what’s freedom).”
Baarik Raza looks ancient. Eyes rheumy, a head of silvery hair and a thick beard of short white hair. His eardrums are shot, his eyes have given up on him. But his voice has an impressive timber to it. His lament is for a soon-to-end era. And his idealism has taken a big hit. Baarik Raza doesn’t say it in as many words, but he sees hard days ahead for the Muslim, unless the Muslim addresses the drift and unites to vote against an unknown future, the ‘Pata Nahin’. May be that’s already happening, or has happened. The Muslims will, to a man and woman, vote in one block, against Modi.
VILLAGE BELUVAN (ON MIRZAPUR-VARANASI BORDER)
We stop at Shiv Mishra’s house in Beluvan village. His brother Shobnath Mishra opens the door. To the question “What do you do?”, Shobnath says he has “two cows” and had “finished with harvesting wheat” only the other day. He says his father is a “Pakka Nalayak”. Soon, other villagers join in, a mixture of Brahmins and Yadavs. The Dalit lives on the fringes of the village, in every way possible. He’s not part of the discussion.
“In any case they don’t count,” says Shiv Mishra. “We leave them alone because of the Harijan Act.”
Ashish Kumar Mishra is a “transport maalik, and commission agent”. Kishen Kumar Pandey is a manufacturer of artificial jewellery. “Last time I voted for the Congress and wasted my vote. This time it will be for Modi,” says Ashish.
Asked about AAP and Arvind Kejriwal, the villagers laugh. “There’s no talk of AAP here. Those who couldn’t run Delhi, how can they rule India. We get to know everything from TV. We don’t want another Ashwasan Guru,” Kishen Pandey replies in Hindi.
In walks former CID inspector Shashank Pandey. “Kejriwal Bilkul Bakwaas Hai. Ya Toh Useh Rajniti Ka Jaankaari Nahin Hai, Ya Phir Bahut Bada Khiladi Hai. Aisa Uske Baiyanon Se Pata Chalta Hai. Hamara vote Toh Modi Ko Hai,” he says in a surprisingly soft voice for a former cop.
That’s cue for Mahendra Yadav to jump into the fray. Yadav is a defector. He jumped the SP ship a fortnight ago to join the Modi wagon. And he is twice as loyal to Modi than the Pandeys and Mishras. “The Yadavs are totally against Mulayam. Even the Muslims are not with SP. Modi doesn’t have to campaign. This entire village will vote for Modi. So will other villages. Muslim villages like Lohta will not. Muslim localities like Madanpura won’t. But wherever there’s a Hindu, his vote will be for Modi. Even Apna Dal’s Patel candidate can win only if she gets the Lotus symbol,” says the assertive Yadav.
There’s a difference between the Yadavs of Etawah-Mainpuri belt and the Yadavs of Purvanchal. Those of the Etawah-Mainpuri belt are called Dhador Yadavs. Those of Purvanchal are known as Gop Yadavs. And Mulayam has left the Gop out of his largesses. That will cost the SP dearly in Purvanchal, says Mahendra Yadav.
The Hindu-Muslim divide in Varanasi has nothing to do with Gujarat 2002, or with the riots of Muzaffarnagar. It’s got everything to do with Modi, and Modi alone. One set of people hate Modi, and his ‘misdeeds’. A bigger set of people admire Modi, and his ‘great deeds’. The polarisation is almost complete. Stark. Blinding.