Vakeela, her hair bronzed with henna and face tanned from hours spent sitting in the sun in her courtyard on a silver coloured charpoy, says “all is well” in the village. Yet, her desire to leave her home betrays a disquiet that she or her family refrain from expressing.
It’s been 15 months since Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi was killed in the village by a mob which accused him and his family of eating beef.
Vakeela’s is the only Muslim home in a Hindu locality now, after the families of Akhlaq and his brother left their native village. There are 200-250 Muslims in Bishara who live in a different locality in the same village. After the murder of Akhlaq, 18 youths were jailed in September 2015 where they still remain.
Sanjeev Rana, whose own son and nephews are in jail, is disillusioned with all parties including the BJP, for which he has worked for 25 years.
“All seven communities of the village were planning to meet on January 20 to decide on whether we should boycott the elections this time. But the idea was dropped. We will wait for the results,” he said.
His anger stems from the resentment that neither the BJP, which is in power at the Centre, nor the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh have “helped in getting justice” for his children. “The entire case has been one-sided,” Rana said.
He added if the village, which is Thakur-dominated, boycotted the elections, it would hurt the BJP as 85 per cent of its votes went to the party. However, most other villages are dominated by Gujjars in the Dadri assembly constituency, where the BJP has not won since 2002. The seat has a Muslim population of 35.22 per cent.
Several in Dadri believe that this time the BJP may have a chance if it fields Nawab Singh Nagar, it’s former MLA from Dadri. Though Nagar lost to BSP’s Satveer Singh Gurjar in the past two elections, people say he still has the strongest chance of winning the seat for his party.
In Bishara, the Akhlaq episode overshadows all other issues, be it demonetization or the surgical strikes across the LoC. The Thakurs of the village want a regime change in the state, in the hope that the ‘appeasement politics’ would tilt in their favour if BJP came to power.
The telltale signs of the sentiments have started surfacing. At the entrance, some youth installed the national tricolour this month on the statue of Maharana Pratap.
“We will vote as the village decides, even if it is for the BJP,” said Vakeela. She then praised the BSP talking of how things were better when Mayawati was the Chief Minister. Like several other Muslims in Bishara, the land where she and her family lived belonged to Rana. She was waiting to pay off the debt and move out of the village.
A lot has changed in the village after the September 2015 incident. Vakeela’s son Illiyas Mohammad, a labourer, said the family has stopped sacrificing goats. Rana said even Diwali and Holy are not celebrated the way they used to be.