Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rampur, Badaon -- two melancholic towns with a wistful Muslim past

People see no hope for jobs without industrial development

Rampur/Badaon (Uttar Pradesh): The two towns of Rampur and Badaon, separated by 110 km, symbolise Muslim habitations because of cultural associations. The nawabs of Rampur have been patrons of Urdu literature, and after Delhi and Lucknow declined, it was Rampur that remained a Muslim cultural enclave. Badaon is famous because the 13th century Sufi, Nizamuddin Chishti, who presides over the spirit of Delhi as no king or emperor does, was from Badaon. His family migrated to this place in western Uttar Pradesh from Central Asia and he spent his early years here before moving to Delhi.

Today, Rampur and Badaon remain quiet, even neglected, towns, and though there is a Muslim majority in the towns and they are district headquarters, the two do not flaunt the label of Islamic cultural centres. Muslims in these two towns speak as ordinary citizens, of their problems and aspirations but not in terms of Muslims as they may tend to do in Deoband and Aligarh Musim University (AMU), also in the same region.

It can also be seen that Lucknow and the hot political games there do not have much of an echo in Rampur and Badaon. Lucknow is a distant city. Even Bareilli seems distant from Badaon (52 km) and Rampur (60 km), and Moradabad, just 20 km away is quite a distant place from Rampur.

Rampur has five assembly constituencies. One of the locals says that Congress fielded good candidates in all the five, and it has a fighting chance. It is pitted against BJP in two of constituencies, one each against SP and BSP.

The BJP ticket has gone to a person of party vice-president Mukthar Abbas Naqvi’s choice, while Yogesh Arora, known as Kukku, with RSS affiliation and who has fought in an election in 1990s, has been overlooked.

In the city of Rampur, there are 55 per cent Muslims and 45 per cent Hindus, while in the outlying district the proportion of Muslims to Hindus is reversed, with the Hindus accounting for 55 per cent and Muslims 45 per cent. The majority of Hindus happen to be Rajput Lodhs. Kalyan Singh, the prominent Lodh leader and former chief minister, has fielded three candidates.

The Brahmins and Dalits who count for much in the eastern part of the state do not count for much in this area. The town has a large sprinkling of Punjabi settlers, who own many shops in Civil Lines, including medical stores and auto parts. They are refugees from Pakistan who came here in 1947, and the Nawab of Rampur provided them place in the Civil Lines.

The road which houses government officers and leads to the house of the Nawab of Rampur, the Noor Mahal, is wide and spacious and well-lighted unlike the rest of the town. But the bustling town lies towards the Raza Library building, which was the old palace of the Nawabs, and where there is lot of bustle.

It is a quiet town, nestled almost at the foothills of the Himalayas, in contrast to bustling and even bursting at the seams Bareilli and Moradabad which is in the process of catching up with some of the glitz of Noida. There is not much of political hustle-bustle in Rampur, the city which famous Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib refused to settle in leaving his favourite Delhi in the 19th century.

Wahid Ali, 55, is an invalid, and drags himself to come up and sit in a kiosk which sells cigarettes and such other sundries on Nayi Sadak in Badaon.

There are 40 per cent Muslims in Badaon, he says. All the migrants who have swelled the town are those who migrated in the last 10 to 15 years. They come from the villages. Every one of the Muslims belongs to the working class. “Ghis ghis kar zindagi chalta hain,” says Ali in anger and in despair. He says the local Muslims are forced to migrate to ‘pardes’(foreign) places like Delhi because there are no jobs in Badaon.

He has two sons and a daughter. The daughter is married off. The two sons work in Delhi as tailors and they come home quite often. They do not lead a good life in Delhi because it is difficult to live in a big city.

Chaman Khan, 45, sells fuel wood, which he gets from the leftovers at the timber depots and furniture-makers. The business is better in winter but it is falling off because more and more people are buying heaters. He also works as a driver of a school bus when is not at the shop selling fuel wood.

He has four boys and three girls. He is sending them to school. Private schools are expensive because they charge Rs 300 to Rs 400 fees per month.

Gauhar Ali Baig, 38, runs vehicles, nine of them, for BSNL, and he does not see much of a problem in Badaon. He admits that there are no factories in the town which would offer jobs to the local people. And there are no medical facilities in town. People have to rush to Bareilli, which 52 km away, for any serious ailment which needs more careful treatment. He says that English medium schools are there in Badaon, and he sends his three children to them. He says that Muslims in Badaon comprise 60 per cent of the population, while in the outlying district Hindus form 60 per cent.

In the last round, Mahesh Gupta of BJP won the election. This time SP has an advantage. The Congress candidate is sincere but he is not likely to win. Every party favours its own caste folk. Mayawati favours her ‘biradari’, he does not use the word Dalit or caste, and so does Mulayam Singh Yadav. It is only Congress that does not favour any ‘biradari’. Baig says that Rahul Gandhi has worked hard and it would bear fruit because hard work never goes waste.

Umesh Sharma, 58, shop-owner who sells cement, says that there has been no progress in the last two decades. He has sent his children for college education to Ghaziabad because there are no good colleges in Badaon.

Sharma turns out to be one with clear political views. He says that both Hindus and Muslims are farmers and they grow wheat and sugarcane, and they do not get good returns. Badaon is a grain market and it has not changed. Farmers come here to sell their produce. They get Rs 600 per quintal of wheat though the official rate is Rs 1000, and sugar mills buy the cane for Rs 130 though the official rate is Rs 230 per quintal. He says most Muslims in Badaon are timber-merchants or ironsmiths, and blames politicians for creating divisions between the two communities, and that illiterate people are misled. He asserts that Brahmins will vote for Congress and describes the Brahmins experience with the BJP and BSP in the state as “moh bhang ho gaya (Infatuation is dispelled)!”

And he is also the one who brings up Anna Hazare and says that people consider him a ‘devta’ (angel) and that he has made people aware that politicians of all parties are no different from each other when it comes to corruption.

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