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Monday, October 19, 2015

Bihar polls: Villagers of Bisfi reflect how wounds that should have healed long ago reopen during every election

Once the road from Darbhanga turns right at a place called Zero Mile, the 8-km journey through Bisfi constituency begins. The narrow, paved road passes through tiny hamlets, where villagers sit playing cards in front of teashops run from little sheds. All around are vast swathes of paddy fields.
For centuries, Hindus and Muslims have lived here side by side and, villagers say, never felt the difference. Until 10 years ago, when a quarrel over a Hindu procession taking water for a Bhairav temple in Bherwa village led to a flare-up. Each election, this issue reopens like an old wound.
“Galti dounoun ki thi (mistakes happened on both sides),” said Mahavir Yadav of Bisfi village. “There wasn’t a jal charwaha (offering of water) tradition earlier. That year, the boys in the procession got up to some mischief, leading to a fight. The Muslim boys living around the temple too were hot-headed.”
The matter should have been forgotten but wasn’t, he said. “Bachool )Haribhushan) Thakur became a leader after he led the Hindus in taking water to the temple. He won the election.” Thakur, of the Bhumihar community that is small here, won as an independent in February as well as October 2005.
“Hindus and Muslims used to eat out of one another’s hand. There is a qabristan next to the temple and we provided the land for the road to the temple,” said Qamar Zaman, former mukhia of Bherwa. “The government didn’t want to resolve the problem. Instead they would send hundreds of policemen who stayed in our village for a month. The offering of water would happen every Monday for a month during sawan.”
Zaman said there was an attempt to raise communal passions again during the 2010 polls but “people didn’t listen… Bachool lost to Dr Fayaz Ahmad of the RJD”. After the JD(U)-BJP formed the government, he said, “Bachool joined the JD(U)”.
Bachool is contesting again as an independent against Dr Fayaz. “Bachool was close to the BJP but the seat went to Upendra Kushwaha’s party (candidate Manoj Yadav),” Ram Nandan Yadav said. “They hope to divide the Yadav vote. If that happens, Bachool may win again. Everybody knows he will join the BJP. Bachoolay ka hawa lagta hai (looks like the wind is blowing Bachool’s way).”
“There is no hawa,” Mahavir Yadav argued. “Muslims and Yadavs form most of the population and they will vote for Laluji. Nobody will fall for sampradayikta this time.”
They are chatting on the steps of Samudhayak Bhawan, a raised concrete pavilion in the village centre. Some are playing cards on the concrete floors; they pause the game and join the discussion. “As in 2010, we will again vote for vikas. We will vote for Nitish,” said Ashok Paswan. “A lot has happened here since Nitish took over. We have regular electricity, an ITI, pani ki tanki ban gayi and now there is enough drinking water. We got a new school, up to intermediate.”
Shivji Paswan, a retired peon, said what needs immediate attention is irrigation. “We grow paddy and that needs water. This year there has been very little rain, so we didn’t plant paddy and plan to grow masoor.”
Santosh Mahato said, “Kamla nadi (a stream) runs through Bisfi. We cannot use its water because there is no arrangement. When it brings floods, our fields are submerged for months. If there is no flood, the situation is like a drought.” He said villagers expect the government to make a plan for irrigation. “Only Nitish can do that,” he said.
Sudhir Kumar Yadav disagreed. “These villagers keep on saying Lalu, Lalu. If they really wanted to vote for Nitish, why didn’t they do so in 2010?” he said. “The Muslims are united; only our vote is divided. We should vote together for Bachool and ensure he wins.” He said he has never voted for a Muslim since that communal flare-up.
Dilchand Sada, a Musahar, said he voted for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, expecting a lot of Modi. “Modi ne chakka mara. Bola to bohut kuch, kiya kuch nahin (Modi hit a six, promised a lot, did nothing),” he said.
“Where is the black money he promised to put in our bank accounts?” said Ashok Paswan. “They are all talk, no action. We have tried Nitish and he has been good. We need not experiment”.
Ram Sanjivan Yadav, however, said that because Lalu has joined Nitish, development will stop. “Laluji doesn’t care for anybody but his family,’’ he said. “I don’t dispute that Lalu did a lot for poor and pichda. Diya sahi, cheen bhi liya wahi (he did give a lot but it was he again who snatched it).” An argument followed among the Yadavs.
A few miles ahead, in Bherwa and Dhamla, the conversation was again on the fear of a communal flare-up. The offering of water happens here. “The election here is different from everywhere else. Each time, there is an attempt to turn everything communal,” said Mohammad Ali. “This time, we are trying not to let that old wound hurt again. We wish there is an amicable solution to settle this problem once and for all.”
Source: IE

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