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'I helped you because you're a Muslim': a story from pre-Modi UP

Aditya Menon | Updated on: 14 March 2017, 21:25 IST
For representation only (Arya Sharma)

I have no analysis or post-mortem to offer about the Uttar Pradesh results. Instead, I would like to recount a little story about an interesting man from UP I met four years ago.

Sometime in March 2013, I was attending the bhoomi pujan of an apartment complex located a fair distance beyond Ghaziabad city. The developer, an acquaintance, is a Muslim, but he had named his company after a Hindu deity. "It is good for business," he joked. After much prodding, he later admitted that "middle-class Hindu buyers are reluctant to buy from a Muslim developer".

The rather elaborate bhoomi pujan was conducted by a Hindu priest, though a Maulana later joined in and gave a short speech. It was to be followed by a 'cultural programme', but I had to leave in order to make it for another appointment.

The plot was located a little away from the main highway, and I began walking. But around five minutes later, a car stopped next to me. A family of three was seated inside – husband, wife and their daughter, who was probably in her teens.

The man called out, asking where I was headed, and if they could give me a lift. I was taken aback at this show of kindness. It isn't common for a family to offer a lift to a stranger; that too in an area where instances of crime are high. I sat in the car and asked them to drop me to a place where I can find a bus or tempo.

The gentleman introduced himself as CB Yadav and, looking at my beard and the Pathani Suit I was wearing, he began calling me 'bhaijaan'.

Instead of asking my name, Mr Yadav asked "do you know why I gave you a lift?". I replied that I was wondering the same thing.

"I gave you a lift because you are a Muslim".

Mr Yadav said he's an LIC agent based in Ghaziabad, but deeply attached to his village near Amethi. It also turned out that he was a supporter of the Samajwadi Party and admired Mulayam Singh Yadav.

"You are a Muslim and I am a Yadav. Our communities aren't related by blood, but our fates are intertwined. I can give it to you in writing that no Hindu belonging to any other caste would have given a Muslim stranger a lift in this manner," he said.

When we passed a bus stop, I said I would get down there, but Mr Yadav would have none of it.

"Why don't we drop bhaiya where he wants to go," his daughter suggested. And sure enough, Mr Yadav didn't let me get down.

"In fact, I have a present to give you when we get down," he promised suddenly.

The family took a nearly six km-long detour and dropped me to my destination. During our little journey, Mr Yadav told me about his village in Amethi and how he was involved in philanthropic work there through a charitable trust named after his mother.

Of course, the LIC agent also did tell me the importance of taking life insurance.

The SP had come to power under Akhilesh Yadav a year back, and Mr Yadav and his family were extremely upbeat about the path Uttar Pradesh was on.

Finally, we reached my destination. Mr Yadav got down and took out a briefcase from the back of his car. And from the briefcase, he took out and presented me my gift.

It was a Hindi translation of the Holy Quran. 

I was overwhelmed by his generosity.

"I carry a few copies with me, in case I bump into Muslim brothers like you. I also carry a few copies of the Bhagavad Gita for Hindus," Mr Yadav said, as I thanked him and took his leave.

 

The worry

On Saturday, as the BJP won a landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh, I thought a lot about CB Yadav and his family.

I thought of them at a time when there are reports that the mere presence of a Muslim candidate drove Hindu voters towards the BJP. Even worse, in some areas, people are said to have supported BJP because there were “just too many Muslims around”.

That the Muslims pose no threat to them is immaterial, as the BJP cleverly wove a narrative of Hindu victimhood. From Narendra Modi's qabristan-shamshaan remark, Amit Shah's KASAB acronym to the chanting of “Pakistan Murdabad” in Hindu localities within Muslim-dominated seats, manufacturing of the “Muslim threat” has been key to the BJP's victory in UP.

The politics which shaped the views of a person like CB Yadav now stands defeated. Mr Yadav is a product of what Mulayam Singh Yadav had achieved. Mulayam may have kept Muslims backward and done little for their welfare. But he created a constituency for communal harmony within the Hindu community, particularly among Yadavs. He made a section of Hindus understand that it was in their interest to have amicable relations with Muslims.

Creating this constituency in communal charged 1990s was no small achievement.

Sadly this constituency for communal peace has shrunk considerably. People like CB Yadav have been reduced to a woeful minority within the Hindu community.

But I still hope that he remains different from voters who felt intimidated looking at a large number of Muslims around them. I hope that he still carries copies of the Holy Quran in his briefcase. I hope that Mr Yadav's daughter would still call a Muslim 'brother' and not 'Pakistani'.

First published: 14 March 2017, 19:48 IST
 
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