Itís 1947 still in Rahi Masoom Razaís Aadha Gaon

Once a Communist stronghold, the village threw its weight behind the Congress in the 1970s and 1980s, but for the past decade-and-a-half, this Muslim bastion swears by the Cycle. The village is united in defending the Samajwadi Party. There is no industry in the village, save the weavers, who earn Rs 50 for every five hours of work they put in, weaving Benarasi sarees.

But despite the misery, weaver Mohammed Irfan feels the Samajwadi Party has done its bit to help the people. "The state has helped with the Kanya Vidya Dhan and it does give us some light. It is eight hours a day when there is no election, and now just before the polls, power is there for 18 to 20 hours a day," he says.

At the Islamia Al Yaul Uloom, a Deoband madrasa set up in 1947, Hafiz Maulana Munir Ahmed, admits that "we do see who is best situated to defeat the BJP and vote for them, and that does happen to be the SP". The Congress, and especially the fact that the Congress President has written an appeal in Urdu, is discussed with a degree of respect. But the villagers again remind you that the vote will go to "Mulayam's party".

Ghazipur and Mau were much in the news last year after strongman Krishnanand Rai's killing and bahubali Mukhtar Ansari's arrest, which led to considerable communal tension. But, say Gangauli residents, "Our village was unaffected, Hindus and Muslims live together here and there was no trouble." Yet, they slowly air their perceptions about being discriminated against. Dr Aftab, who completed his MBBS from Muzaffarpur University, practices here and says there is prejudice against Muslims and the resulting insecurity leads people to Mulayam; "I applied for the UPSC and several other services, but have am yet to get a call from anywhere. Why do you ask what the qaum is doing? We are doing enough, but need help," he says. Asif, an unemployed young man is less optimistic about how far his vote will travel. "There are 50 parties that have come up. Even if all Muslim votes are put together, I don't think any party or set of parties will be in a position to form a government." Another young man, Riaz Ahmed, openly mocks his neighbours, wanting to know the difference between the Congress, SP and BSP is as far as Muslims are concerned. "Sirf vote lene tak yeh baat karte hain, khat likhte hain, uske baad, phek dete hain," he says.

... contd.

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