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The flags of Jamalpur
“Saheb ka photo change kar do, unka munh khula dikh raha hai. Internet pe kai sare photo mil jayenge, koi achcha chun ke laga do. Slogan mein mistake hai, use durust kar do (Change saheb’s picture, his mouth is open. There are a lot of photos on the internet, choose a good one.
There is a mistake in the slogan, rectify it).” Abbas (name changed) notes down the instructions dictated to him on the phone by a National Conference worker from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), and makes the changes on a poster featuring J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Once he is done, he sends the new image back to Srinagar on WhatsApp.
As the country gears up for general elections next month, Jamalpur, a Muslim-dominated area in old Ahmedabad, is a flurry of activity. The area has been supplying banners and other publicity material to political parties since 1989.
“Dilli me koi bhi kahin se jaye, wahan jhanda toh Jamalpur se hi le jana padta hai (Anybody can come to power in Delhi, but the flags are supplied from Jamalpur),” says Hamid, (name changed), a trader. Orders flow in from national parties such as BJP and Congress as well as regional parties such as Trinamool Congress and NC.
“The orders are pouring in from everywhere, but we are not able to meet the demand due to lack of manpower. Workers who went home for Holi haven’t returned as yet,” says Abbas, who has been in the business for the past 26 years. Till a few years back, Ahmedabad was the hub for printing banners and posters, but over the years, Hyderabad and Mathura have taken the lead, he says.
Printing exclusively for political parties is a niche market, which employs at least 2,500 people, most of them Muslims, and includes migrants from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The business is dominated by Chhipa Muslims, a community known for its association with textile dyeing and processing. Said to have migrated from Rajasthan some 200 years ago, many of them still own dyeing units that had sprung up around mills, when Ahmedabad was a textile hub.
The Muslims here do not let politics come in the way of business. “Although I will keep condemning Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, I don’t mind printing his party’s banners as long as it pays me,” says 30-year-old Imran Khan, a resident of Danilimda. His business involves cutting reams of printed posters, banners and flags to size.
Mostly represented by Chhipa Muslims, Jamalpur assembly seat saw a change in its political equation when it was merged with Khadia, a neighbourhood area, continued…