‘Muslims In UP Are Ill At Ease With Yogi At The Helm’

Mohammad Afsar Saifi, 29, a welding and fabricating business owner at Pilakhuwa (Hapur, Uttar Pradesh) says there is palpable uneasiness among Muslims under Yogi Adityanath rule

There was an uneasy calm when we first heard in March 2017 that the BJP has chosen Mahant Yogi Adityanath to be the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. He had made fiery speeches in the past and hence the minority community was generally apprehensive.

In the last four and a half years of his rule, the same sense of fear, uneasiness and the risk of a communal flare up has constantly been there, even though there has never been any untoward incident in my locality. I feel it is his duty as the chief minister to work towards allaying this fear.

I am a fabricator. My earnings have improved over the last four years, despite a breakdown of business during Covid-19 lockdown for several months. But financial wellbeing has not lessened out anxiety about our safety. As elections are drawing near, members of my extended family and community are afraid of what will happen if Yogi is re-elected as the state chief minister.

I personally don’t think much about it as I am the one who goes out and face the world to earn bread for my family and so far I have not faced any single case of discrimination which my community people have been thinking.

Yet, my family members cannot vote for him as the perception still reigns among our minds that he is a Hindu hardliner. Largely, this idea is being used as a political tool also in both the communities. Polarisation of votes on communal lines suit all politicians. Yogi’s detractor will naturally fuel our fear factor to gain Muslim support and organize votes against him.

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Many people talk about an improvement in the crime situation under his rule and that the mafia lords have been tamed. But, frankly, to someone like me who is from an economically weaker section, I cannot feel any difference as far as the law and order is concerned.

There are certain apprehensions which are still in our mind about the image of the chief minister. Apart from whatever happened during CAA-NRC protest and other isolated incidents, we feel there is a lack of inclusiveness as our community is largely missing from the policy brought in by the Yogi government. Sometimes we feel left out, but at the same time, we think that we have spent last 4.5 years in the same apprehension when nothing untoward actually happened.

Congress Rally In Saharanpur

Rally Report – ‘We'll Vote To Defeat BJP’

Although Mohammad Israr, 49, attended the Congress rally at Saharanpur on April 8, he calls himself an observer than a party supporter. He believes Muslims must see which way the wind is blowing and vote tactically to defeat the communal forces. And he has valid reasons to back his belief:

I am just an observer to this rally (Congress public meeting on April 8) since I happened to be in the vicinity. I can judge the support of Muslim community to Imran Masood. He is a very popular leader in the community because of his fierce comments against (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi. Mazloomo ki aawaz hain (he is the voice of the oppressed).

In my opinion, Imran sahib is likely to win, even though the joint candidate from the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj is also Hazi (Fazulrahman) sahib. A day or two before, there was gathbandhan (the SP-BSP alliance) rally which was also attended by many Muslim voters. And I was worried a little that two Muslim candidates would mean division of votes. The Muslim voter must not allow its voter strength to be wasted. Taqseem nahi hona hai, taqseem karne waali taaqaton ko harana hai (we must not get divided; instead we have to defeat the divisive forces).

Community leaders must guide the votes not to get carried away by punchy slogans and promises made in a rally. Once the results come, these leaders will forget what they had promised before the public. Similarly, a voter or a quom (community) also has to keep its self-interest in mind. BJP rule in the last five years have instilled a feeling of fear among the minority community.

Never before were so many cases of cow vigilante had come. Muslims and many low-caste Hindu brothers lost their jobs after a crackdown on abattoirs in Uttar Pradesh. There were so many incidents of lynching on false pretext. Such incidents send a wrong signal to the minority community. We get worried when our children travel to other states on their own.

Even in Vajpayee ki sarakar and Kalyan Singh ki sarkar, this fear never visited our minds. But the last five years have been traumatic. And with Yogi sarkar in UP now, things have only got worse. You should see the bike rallies by men wearing saffron headgears. They deliberately shout slogans whenever a mosque comes en route. Their sole purpose is to humiliate Muslims. Ask anyone. This is a universal feeling and a regular point of discussion in our community.

I understand Muslims are used as votebanks. But do we have any other option than not to unitedly help a candidate who would listen to us, help us in getting our police complaints registered, give us protection or at least a sense of protection. Self-interest is back in the game. That is why you are not hearing the slogan sabka saath, sabka vikas this year. Are you?

(Name of the narrator was changed and his face blurred on request)

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