“I can’t predict the outcome of the polls. But one thing is certain. The Muslims of Muzaffarpur will sleep well if it all ends peacefully.”
Never has Tanvir Alam witnessed an election so bitter, a campaign so acrimonious, scattering seeds of distrust to pit faith against faith, caste against caste. Tanvir, who calls himself “a social worker”, is the nephew of Mohammed Nizamuddin, caretaker of the mazar of Hazrat Data Kambal Shah in Pakki Sarai, a Sufi shrine revered by both Muslims and Hindus.
“This shrine is a reason for the bonhomie here. Ever since Hazrat Data Kambal Shah came here in 1883, this place has drawn people from all faiths,” says Nizamuddin.
Shahzada Khan, 50, a manager at a nearby deaddiction centre, agrees. But this election, he says, has changed Muzaffarpur. “Mahaul badal gaya hai (the atmosphere has changed). There is fear. Especially after what the Prime Minister and (BJP president) Amit Shah said. The Muslims now believe this election is a curse,” Khan says.
He is referring to the Prime Minister’s remark that rivals Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad are planning a quota for a “particular community” and Shah’s comment that if the BJP loses, crackers will be burst in Pakistan.
In Pakki Sarai and the Muslim quarters of Muzaffarpur, these remarks have caused considerable unease. And hurt. Khan says Muslims are convinced both leaders have been referring to the community. “What has Pakistan got to do with Bihar elections? He (Shah) was referring to us, calling us Pakistani… Musalmano ko mulk ka baagi bola (Muslims have been called rebels).”
Nizamuddin Raza Khan has a poser for the Prime Minister over his “particular community” remark: “Aren’t we also his responsibility? This election will end but will the distrust, bitterness go? I hope it does.”
Sitting outside the office of Qawal Anjum Warsi, a man refuses to discuss the election.
“Leave us alone. We are waiting for this election to end as early as possible. The last few weeks have only brought worries. I no longer care whether Sharma wins or Choudhary does [BJP’s Suresh Sharma and JD(U)’s Vijender Choudhary].”