Updated: October 1, 2017 10:45:17 am
The effigies of Ravana, Meghanad and Kumbhakaran had gone up in flames, but in Dwarka’s sector 10, there was one more effigy to go — that of China. The vast ground used by the Dwarka Ramlila society had witnessed a similar mixing of Dussehra and politics last year when an effigy of Pakistan was burnt after the Uri terror attack. This year, against the backdrop of the Doklam standoff, China occupied the fourth spot.
“We have so much trade with the Chinese but they repeatedly encroach on our territory. We have decided to set fire to their effigy to send them a message. Last year, we did the same with Pakistan,” said Rajesh Gehlot, ex-BJP councillor from Matiala, who organised the event. Apart from life-sized posters of the Prime Minister planting trees and of Swachh Bharat initiatives, there were cutouts of Armymen against the backdrop of mountains, urging citizens to “do their duty for the country and stop buying Chinese products”.
Before the show, a beeline of workers marched from a small pandal behind the massive 3D cut-out stage used for the Ramlila. A minute later, a giant headless body was carried out by five men. They struggled for several minutes before loading the frame on a tractor. The ‘China’ effigy made its way through the burnt Lanka prop set.
Inside the pandal, several firecrackers were tied to ropes criss-crossing the room. Three labourers sat next to a giant Ravana face, loading firecrackers by setting up the fuselage with iron pins. The effigies have been made by 65 Muslim workers from Farrukhnagar, Ghaziabad. Unconcerned with the politics of Doklam, 16-year-old Mohd Farman yawned in front of a fan, waiting for his father Mohammad Ayub Khan, who was making the effigies, to finish.
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A labourer from Jaipur walked into the pandal, with a beedi between his lips, asking for a matchbox. “The fool will get us all killed,” said one of the men loading the crackers. Two others gestured wildly at him, urging him to leave. Khan was nowhere to be found as he had gone to buy firecrackers. “My father has been making these effigies ever since he was a child. He was taught by his father. It runs in the family,” Farman said.
The effigy makers had been putting in 12-hour shifts for the past month so they could finish in time. “The children start off by making hands and legs, hacking several pieces with a saw, while their fathers do intricate parts like the face,” said Sohail, who has given up on the profession for a management course but joined the group on the last day.
Effigy makers worked in groups as they made different parts. They propped up a giant poster of a dragon with ‘China’ written across it as they decided how to place it on the effigy. “They should have made a red effigy… Why make a green one for China?” asked one of them.
Most men said they want to look at another profession. “This is hard and the pay is not good. Every Muslim boy from my locality is involved in this work. We learned our Ramayana from practical experience,” said Sohail.
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