Beyond Babri – Deliberations in a Muslim neighborhood

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When the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992, Indian cities witnessed the construction of an invisible border that gradually began to demarcate Muslim residential areas and markets. Every anti-Muslim riot heightened this sense of vulnerability, alienating Muslim communities even more. These limits are considerably more visible today, thirty years later.

The Faizabad Road neighbourhood in Gonda, located 48 kilometers from Ayodhya, the temple town where the Babri Mosque was demolished, is one such demarcated, gentrified neighborhood, where the area begins with kebabs and fabric shops and ends with Butchers’ (Buffalo’s meat) shops and junkyards. Between this one-kilometer length, everything is a desperate endeavor to keep alive.

Rakabganj, Nabiganj, Shastri Nagar (Topkhana), and Imambara are the four municipal wards that comprise the area. Ward members, the elected representatives of these wards, receive demographic data that indicates the lack of essential services on the ground.

There are only four government primary schools and no government clinics in this residential area which has a roughly 10,000 electoral population. On the ground, government parks and playgrounds, which are regarded as a luxury in any residential setting, are simply untraceable. This is where Jigar Moradabadi, the internationally renowned Urdu poet, is buried.

Workers from all political parties, religious sects, affiliations, and organizations, as well as young people aspiring to be part of mainstream politics, can be found here.

Mosques and temples coexist in this Muslim-majority neighborhood. Many Hindu families moved out from the area, while a few others arrived. When talking to residents who have moved to other parts of town, several remarked that as a family grows, the houses get smaller and there is no room for horizontal development in the neighborhood.

The Muslims of Gonda are frequently organized into subgroups and fraternities depending on their occupations, forming communities within communities. Raynis, Quraishis, Idreesis, Ghaffaris, and Mansooris are some of the most significant profession-based fraternities in Gonda.

People take pride in their community and have a sense of belonging to it. Each group has its own social structure, marital ceremonies, and educational institutions, among other things. And these fraternities are seen living in groupings inside their respective communities, notably based on their distinct occupations. All of these fraternities live peacefully and harmoniously in the Faizabad Road neighborhood.

Education awareness is increasingly obvious, which is a positive development in this sector. The benefit of this geographical environment is that people can live here without tussling or strife, regardless of their educational, business, or fraternal backgrounds.

Yes, there is high unemployment. And, regrettably, young men spend a significant portion of the day at a tea stall, their gaze diverted from domestic duties and responsibilities. Youths in this area are exploited by the political elite in the same way that used tea leaves are dried and used repeatedly at every tea stall in the area.

A contractor handling municipal government contracts and work orders has become a delightful and easy-to-money-garniture job for which some people wait years for the people of their choice to gain power.

Although government decision makers may ignore the reality on the ground, these sentences about youths left unattended to exploit the golden years of their lives in front of any father may cause tears to well up in their eyes.

The presence of all political parties in the neighborhood separates the area into many political groups as each election approaches. Each group claims to be more politically sound than the other, and in the area that sprang up in the aftermath of the riots, there is only one thing uttered and heard in the name of the issue: the BJP must be defeated this time. This is a claim made by each and every camp. If the BJP wins the elections, they will begin hunting for someone to blame afterward. The secluded area is segregated even more.

Despite the deliberate, policy-based demonisation of our presence, people from outside these segregated living arrangements, who consider themselves educated and financially secure, sit among us, do businesses with Muslim, but choose to elect the oppressor and suspect us of fanaticism.

What issues would our political leaders discuss in such an environment? The Quraishis, who deal in buffalo meat, and the Ghaffaris, who work as cobblers, have both been directly affected by the current political regime’s policies. Issues which are not even discussed in conventional politics here.

The locality voted again on February 27th to keep the BJP out of power. The BJP re-took power on March 10th, and we again failed to address our core issues of safety and security of our livelihoods, joblessness, lack of educational institutions, and missing basic government amenities including health care. Hoardings are coming up in preparation for the upcoming municipal elections at the end of the year. And the spatial arrangement is preparing to defeat the bjp once more, just to be defeated.

Sadiq Zafar, Urban Policy Researcher | Architect


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