The night before Bulandshahr went to polls, Habibur Rehman (60) and his family of eight drove from Ghaziabad’s Dasna to Nayabas village — 30 km from Bulandshahr — and unlocked the house they had fled from four months ago when violence broke out over cow carcasses found in a field. The family is here for a day — to vote.
“We are here just to cast our vote, we now live in Dasna. In December, when the cow carcasses were found in a field in our village and SHO Subodh Kumar Singh was killed, there was widespread fear. Here we have our own house, but in Dasna we live on rent,” said Rehman, who queued up early on Thursday to vote.
Likewise, carpenter Jabbar Ali (59), his wife and their four children reached Nayabas from Ghaziabad’s Masuri at 8 am on Thursday, four months after fleeing home. “We vote for aman-chain (peace and harmony),” he said.
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On December 3, Singh, who was the SHO of Siyana police station, died at the hands of a mob angry over alleged cow slaughter. At Nayabas — home of the main accused, Bajrang Dal district convener Yogesh Raj — conversations on polling day revolved around the “haadsa” (tragedy), inside living rooms, outside a parchun ki dukaan (general store), and atop bullock carts.
In Bulandshahr, the Lok Sabha candidates are current BJP MP Bhola Singh for the BJP, Yogesh Verma for the Mahagathbandhan, and Bansi Lal Pahadia for the Congress.
At Chingravathi, next to the police chowki that was set on fire by the mob on December 3, villagers stressed on “forgetting the past and focusing on the future”. The primary school across the chowki was turned into a polling booth, guarded by more than eight armed police officers. While college student Jaideep Kumar (19), a first-time voter, focused on “vishva sammaan” (global honour) and Sushila Devi (38) hoped for “more progress” in her village, at Chingravathi it was about “toilet, LPG and electricity”.
“For 37 years, I would go to the farmland to relieve myself, but since a toilet was built inside our house under a government scheme, life has changed. The village needs more such miracles,” Sushila Devi said. Dayawati (55) spoke about a gas stove and LPG cylinder replacing the chulha at home. “We have toilets and LPG, now we need jobs for our sons,” she said.
At the booth showed up Brajesh Batti (45), wife of labourer Ramesh Jogi (50), who is one of the accused in the killing of the SHO. “I didn’t want to vote, no party has stood by us, but then someone said that if I do vote, my husband will be released from the jail,” she said.
Farmer Satpal Singh (85), retired Air Force man Yogender Singh (66) and sugar mill worker Vipin Kumar (25) cited “vikas” (development), “military strength” and “pushing out invaders” as their expectations. Simultaneously, a small rebellion brewed among a group of veiled women “against the men at home who dictate votes”.
At Nayabas village, conversations around December 3 were set aside as 18-year-old Hemant Kumar, a first-time voter, reached the polling booth with his great-grandmother Sukhdai Devi, who said she was 102 years old. “I want employment and surgical strike on enemy nations from the next government,” said Kumar, as Devi nodded in agreement.
Safruddin (38) stood in a crisp kurta, with a polling agent pass clipped on it. On December 5, the cloth merchant was arrested by police on charges of cow slaughter, but given a clean chit after two weeks. “It was a tough time but I got a clean chit. Moving on, I hope people vote for an honest government that works to maintain the sanctity of the judiciary, the CBI… one that gives out figures we can trust,” he said.