Akhir Ali, proprietor, Bharat Sports, Morena Sim Bazaar, Madhya Pradesh
I am 71 now. I have been selling sports goods for more than five decades. We have a shop, Bharat Sports, in Sim Bazaar (Morena, MP) but our main income comes from fairs at small towns. My work therefore requires me to travel to Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. (Narendra) Modi may be a great leader, but his supporters are a violent lot. ‘Buraai bardashth nahi (Modi’s criticism is unacceptable to them).’
We keep reading about gau rakshaks ganging up against innocent Muslims. TV channels often report about lynch mobs targeting the minority community. Each time there is a mention of the word Modi, in a train, bus or public place, you will find people intensely defending all his actions. I stay away from such debates or discussions. This wasn’t the case earlier. At the fairs, or during travel, we openly discussed politics. Today, it is not advisable to disclose your political views, especially if they are not in favour of the Yogi-Modi brand of leadership. ‘Mahaul bahut kharaab hai (Bad times have befallen).’
No matter what hardships you faced during note-bandi (demonetization), you must bear it silently. In mid-November, 2016, several marriages in our village and nearby area were postponed. For the ones which could not be postponed, families gave written oaths to return money once things normalized. My business suffered. There were no crowds at the fairs where I had brought the stalls. Those were tough times. But no, you cannot say a word against note-bandi. Or you will be called gaddar (traitor). It is doubly difficult for a Muslim, you understand.
My vote is reserved for the Congress party. Only Congress can keep Modi in check. Anywhere the BJP comes to power, it lets loose idle youth branding swords and sticks in rallies. There was one Bajrang Dal procession here too some time back. These men with saffron bandanas kept shouting ugly slogans and looked at us threateningly. I have advised my family to keep their gaze low whenever they faces such aggression.
Good men are in each party. Shivraj Chauhan (former Madhya Pradesh chief minister) is a good man. The former BJP MLA Rustom (Tomar) phool wala is a good man. He even sanctioned Rs 8 lakh for the graveyard in Morena. We never had any complaint from him. But how can we vote for him? His party wily-nily patronises gau rakshaks, after all.