In the state where the lynching of Pehlu Khan in Alwar in April last year by a mob that accused him of “cow smuggling” burned nation-wide outrage, and the police investigation subsequently cleared six men Khan had named as his assailants in his dying declaration, and where the equal crime stalks more victims, you hear the disclaimer over and over again: Rajasthan does not have a communal problem, they say, everything is alright here among Hindus and Muslims.
The denials of a growing communal polarisation end outside the Muslim mohalla.
In Mohalla Chopdaran, in the heart of the tiny town of Jhunjhunu, a group of young Muslim men conversed of an increase in “bhed bhaav (discrimination)” and intolerance. Mohammad Ali, a salesman, says the talks have changed: “Earlier, when we got together with our Hindu friends, we would converse about business and other things. Now the online hate campaigns hang over our interactions among each other.”
On the Congress PART and stance, however, the view in the Nagaur neighborhood is apart from that of the young men in the Muslim mohalla in Jhunjhunu. “If the Congress wants to come to power, it will have to remain constant,” says Tanvir Ahmed, who teaches math at Sophia Basic School in Nagaur town.
Mohammad Shafi, a cotton trader in Kaziyon ka Chowk, says: “The Congress does not have to speak for us. We only want peace.” “Bas, dhandha chalna chahiye (business must go on, that’s all),” says Abdul Waheed, a labourer. “At least under the Congress, itni tangi nahin dekhi (we did not feel so cornered in Congress rule).”
Tanvir Ahmed says that Congress rule in Rajasthan was scarred by “scams and lack of development”. But, now, “Poison is being spread in Sabarimala, and by Amit Shah’s statements on it. How can they flout the court?” And, “Modiji makes false claims, tries to divert the matter.”
Be it on bijli, sadak, paani or intolerance, Tanvir Ahmed paints a dire choice for the Muslims in Rajasthan: “Ya to phansi pe chad ja