That the majority population in Uttar Pradesh (UP) is not communal is the heart-warming message to have emerged from the 18th Lok Sabha elections that concludes on June 1. After having followed the election for about seven weeks, it became clear that the electorate of the largest populated state in the country still has a heart throbbing in its breast.

The majority population of UP may still be the most backward, illiterate and poverty stricken but it holds little resentment for fellow citizens belonging to religious communities different to its own.

“From my neighbourhood around Muzaffarpur if there were ten of us Hindus going for a Ramayan performance six of them would invariably be our Muslim friends,” a voter told the media.

From mediaeval times Muslims have played lead characters in the annual Ramlila performances organised seasonally. It is not rare to find Muslims in the top management of Ramila shows in many towns and villages of UP.

Instead of bridging this unity amongst citizens, friendships and feelings of bonhomie in society are being brutally ripped apart by hate mongers. However, the hate mongers are also being resisted.

Even those voters who continue to support the ruling party do so not out of hate for their neighbours, but in the hope that the politicians they vote for will provide them with a home, job and security.

Few votes have been cast this election in favour of making a scapegoat of members of any minority community. In a population of nearly 25 crore people, few hold fellow citizens responsible for the miserable lives led by them today.

From Varanasi in the east, to Muzaffarpur in the west, most people expressed a desire for peace and prosperity that has continued to elude the majority population since the independence of the country in 1947.

In the holy city of Kashi (Varanasi) voters admitted that they suffer multiple problems every day but blame politicians, and not each other for their woes.

The owner of a stall on a street in Ayodhya said that the need of the hour is not another god, but for a prime minister who will deliver all the promises made to the people.

Voices From Varanasi

In Varanasi people on the street quote Kabir Das, the 14th Century mystic poet born in the same city whose thoughts on love and life had influenced Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. Centuries ago Kabir said and which rings true to this day that “‘Hindu kahein Ram pyara, Musalman kahein Rahim… aapas maa duoo ladi-ladi muaiye, maram na kou jana’ (Hindus say Ram and Muslims say Rahman and both die fighting each other without the unfortunate understanding either of Ram or Rahim)”.

That is why the king, and both the Hindu and Muslim clerics, had disliked Kabir because the poet had exposed the lie of those in power before ordinary people.

Hate mongers find it difficult even today to dent the influence of Kabir on the population of Varanasi that has learnt over centuries to appreciate all human beings and to never allow the ego to dominate and to dictate life.

Gorakhnath’s Gorakhpur

In Gorakhpur further east of Varanasi, bands of yogis, including Muslim yogis, still sing in praise of Gorakhnath. Gorakhpur is named after the 11th century yogi and founder of a popular monastic movement.

Gorakhnath had championed an ethical way of life. His ideas continue to be popular especially amongst the rural population of eastern UP that will vote in the seventh and last phase of the elections to be held on June 1.

At the Gorakhnath Temple in Gorakhpur, people belonging to different social strata of society have been welcomed. Gorakhnath had laid the foundation of Hindu-Muslim unity and opposed the discrimination of fellow citizens on the basis of their caste affiliation.

Many citizens belonging to the untouchable caste, and marginalised by the upper castes had joined Gorakhnath’s movement in large numbers.

Gorakhnath’s insistence on equality amongst all human beings had touched the heart of Kabir and the poet Malik Mohammed Jaisi.

The temple became politicised when Yogi Digvijaynath had joined the Congress in 1921. He was arrested for his involvement in the Chauri Chaura rebellion against the British, putting an end to Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement.

In 1937 the organisation had turned to right wing politics and was associated with the Hindu Mahasabha, opposing Gandhi’s non-violent movement and inflaming passions against the father of the nation.

Before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had hijacked the Ram Janambhoomi movement, it had spearheaded from here in 1949 and Digvijaynath won the Lok Sabha election from Gorakhpur in 1967.

The number of Muslim yogis, and of Muslim devotees living mostly in the east UP villages of Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Deoria, Sant Kabir Nagar, Azamgarh and Balrampur has been consistently dwindling in recent times.

This is due to the rift being created by the politics of hate practised today. As the head of the Gorakhnath temple UP Chief Minister Adityanath continues with the same politics of Digvijaynath. The CM first won his Lok Sabha seat from Gorakhpur in 1998.

Lucknow Is Celebrating Bada Mangal

Meanwhile, residents of Lucknow, in the heart of UP, have been busy celebrating Bada Mangal since May 28.

The tradition to devote four Tuesdays in worship of Hanuman during this month of Jyeth was started by Begum Alia, the wife of Nawab Shujaudaula, third ruler of Avadh.

Begum Alia was a Hanuman devotee and had prayed to him for a child. Her son Nawab Saadat Ali Khan was born on a Tuesday and it is he who built a Hanuman temple for his mother in Aliganj.

Saadat Ali Khan was nicknamed Mirza Mangali, and his entire kingdom had lovingly called him Manglu.

According to another legend a pandemic had hit Lucknow once and people in large numbers had taken refuge in the temple.

The rulers of that time had taken care of the refugees by allowing them shelter in the temple and distributing food and water to them.

In memory of those days filled with a little more love and a lot more generosity, the people of the city put up stalls in different neighbourhoods to this day, and free food and water is distributed to whoever visits without worrying about anyone’s religious or social status.

This is the true spirit of UP barring the bulldozing of people’s property, encounter killings and jailing citizens without trial. Attempts have been made to poison the natural camaraderie amongst citizens with hate speeches and cruel gestures in recent times, but most citizens stand by the Constitution of India today.

To the question of what are you voting for in this election, the maximum number of answers gathered from voters is to unitedly safeguard the Constitution that provides every citizen of the country the right to a free, fair and dignified existence.

Cover Photograph AP