Deoband, one of the five constituencies in the Saharanpur district of North Uttar Pradesh, is a Muslim dominated constituency. The Darul Uloom, prolific for its fatwas, has great influence in this area. Maa Balasundari temple is located in this area. Arjun, the third among Pandavas had meditated here during the Agyatvaas. Shri Krishna Gaushala, which has ‘Devvrind’ inscribed on its entrance, is also located here in Deoband.
The demand to change Deoband’s name to Devvrind is a long-standing one. According to Vijaypal, who has been observing the work of this cowshed since 1990, there are currently 324 cows here. Before 2017, he claims, the police used to come here with a huge number of bovines that were rescued from cow smugglers. In recent years, cattle smuggling has been reduced to a great extent, he says.
Deoband is also notorious for cow slaughter. Despite the Yogi government’s efforts to tighten its grip on the perpetrators, illegal cow slaughtering still continues to some extent.
Saharanpur SSP Akash Tomar told OpIndia: “I have been in this district for more than 3 months. Since then, action has been taken against 57 cow slaughterers under the Gangster Act. Property of cow smugglers worth more than 1 crore has been attached. Many cases have been registered against these people. Cow slaughter is being prosecuted vigorously. It’s also worth noting that the Shri Krishna Gaushala cart visits Deoband neighbourhoods every day to collect roti, but we couldn’t discover a single Muslim name among the Gaushala’s contributors.”
Silence of Muslims on Ram Mandir
Deoband has been beset by a number of issues, including unlawful cow slaughter and smuggling. Another issue that has prevailed in the area is intolerance and prejudice against Hindus. Earlier in the day, it was reported how Ahsan Rao, a youth from Deoband, Uttar Pradesh was abused and called ‘su*r’, dog, h**ami ka bacha and more. He was threatened with questions like ‘what will happen to you when Bhaiya comes, and Yogi will go to the Math’?” The reason behind the continuous abuse is that he raised slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ during a rally in Saharanpur in December 2021.
Even during election season, the Muslims of Deoband refrain from speaking out on these matters. When OpIndia spoke to Sufiyan Qureshi, who otherwise reads ballads in the admiration for BJP, regarding Ram Mandir, he refused to comment. However, Sufiyan Qureshi told OpIndia that “73% of the voters here are Muslims. Many Muslim households I know had houses built by the BJP. According to what I’ve heard, there are 900 dwellings erected here by the BJP of which 650 are that of Muslims. People whose homes were built by the BJP or Modi ji now openly declare that they will vote for the person who built their home,” confirmed Qureshi.
BJP Vs BSP
The BJP has re-nominated Brijesh Singh Rawat as their candidate from the Deoband constituency. There was conjecture in the media before the announcement of the polls that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath would run for one of the seats, which included Deoband. However, the party ultimately put its trust in Rawat who had in 2017 also won this seat by defeating Majid Ali from the Bahujan Samaj Party with a margin of 29400 votes.
The SP has fielded Kartikeya Rana, the son of former minister Rajendra Singh Rana, from this constituency in the hopes of securing the Muslim votes and splitting Hindu support. However, it is being believed that BJP and BSP are the main contenders for the Deoband seat.
It’s worth mentioning that Deoband is the only seat in western Uttar Pradesh where a BSP candidate is running in the main election.
Umar Madani has been nominated by Owaisi’s party, AIMIM. He is a member of the Madani family, which is quite influential in the region. Nonetheless, he is just perceived as a vote cutter.
Mohammad Anwar, who is an engineer by profession, told OpIndia, “Madani ji’s family is respected for religious reasons. They have no political influence. Maulana Madani’s statement has come that you should support such a party that maintains peace and brotherhood in the country. The one who has done such work so far, has given the slogan of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas, is the Bharatiya Janata Party. People here are getting benefit from this.”
‘Hooliganism will return if Akhilesh Yadav comes back to power’
However, the challenge for the BJP in Deoband is not entirely one-sided. Many of the people who threatened to visit Ahsan Rao after March 10 dwell on the same streets of Deoband.
Speaking to OpIndia, Ahsan said, “After the video of raising slogans went viral, I started receiving calls including from Pakistan, Dubai and Qatar. They told me to become Wasim Rizvi or apologize. What should I apologize for?”
“In my village, some people started protesting against me. Now I got security, but as soon as I leave the house, people start shouting, ‘this is the same pig, dog and bastard who raised the slogans of Jai Shri Ram’.” When asked who these people were, Ahsan said, “They are people from our society. Wherever I go, they abuse me. Everyone is waiting for Bhaiya (Akhilesh Yadav) to come back in power. If the government changes, they will take revenge. They are also trying to mislead my father, family members, relatives and everyone associated with me. Is it wrong to praise the country where I live?”
There is a segment of Muslims that praises the development work done in the Yogi government. However, there is also a certain section that is hoping for a change in government. To understand this better, let us consider the words of a police officer stationed in Deoband, who spoke to OpIndia on conditions of anonymity: “They want to wear topis, ride their bikes around freely, and cause a ruckus on the streets and the police should not intervene. When Akhilesh Yadav was in power, such things were quite common. When Yogi came in power all this had stopped. Now they want Akhilesh to return and bring back the hooliganism that was common during his era.”
‘Women are safe under Yogi regime unlike when SP was at the helm in UP’
Explaining the plight of women during the Samajwadi Party regime, Roshan Ara, who identifies herself as a social worker, told OpIndia: These rioters did not target solely Hindus. “There was a lot of crime during the previous regime, due to which women especially are extremely wary of Akhilesh Yadav and his party. Under the Yogi government, women in the state are secured and feel safe. Now, women can travel wherever they want without feeling threatened,” Roshan Ara added.
“Previously, when women walked on the streets they were hounded and harassed by the Samajwadi Party goons. But not anymore. Right now, the police administration is in place. There is no danger at all. Police have stopped taking bribes and have become more duty-bound than before”, added Ara.
“Previously, gangsters used to harass girls while strolling down the street,” Sufian Qureshi also said, adding that girls were previously not allowed to attend school. People were petrified to be out in the open. People used to be robbed here in the past, but not right now.
“Law and order is the most important factor”, opined Mohammad Haroon Ansari, while batting for the return of Yogi Adityanath as UP’s next CM.
‘Vandalism and street hooliganism were common under Akhilesh rule, now it has stopped’
Mohammad Anwar, while comparing the Akhilesh Yadav regime to the current Yogi Government asked, where is the crime now? He added that at present there is zero-tolerance for crime, but things were different prior to 2017. “Before 2017, areas like Muzaffarnagar, Deoband, Saharanpur, Kairana, Shamli, and Gangoh were hotbeds of criminal activities. However, there has been calm in Uttar Pradesh since Yogi ji’s government assumed power”.
Anwar added: “There are educational institutions in Deoband, which prior to 2017, use to shut before 5 pm as the girl students studying there felt unsafe. The girls coming out of these institutions were teased and harassed so much that most parents barred their girls from attending classes. This compelled the institutions to reduce their operational hours. Things have, however, changed now after Yogi has taken up the reins of Uttar Pradesh. These same institutions now operate peacefully till 10 pm.
The most pressing issue for Murtaza Qureshi is also law and order reforms. “This is the nicest part about BJP,” he said. Previously, we would witness gangs of boys fighting excessively, some riding their bikes doing stunts on roads, vandalism and hooliganism were common. It is no longer the case now. Law and order situation has improved a lot.”
‘Muslims have backed the BJP and will continue to do so’
“So, what will be the final result of Deoband? The results of the polls would indicate whose party is winning,” Sufyan Qureshi told OpIndia, adding that the BJP’s work here has been speaking for it. Those who call the BJP an anti-Muslim party should ask why the BJP is building houses for Muslims. Why did the BJP then grant Muslims the Ayushman card? Why, then, is the BJP canvassing Muslim households for votes?”
Speaking to OpIndia one Mohammad Anwar said: “The government has provided the benefits of the schemes here without any discrimination. People have no animosity towards the BJP as a result of this. Despite the fact that the area is predominantly Muslim, a BJP MLA was elected here in the past. This indicates that Muslims have backed the BJP and will continue to do so”.
“We have not been discriminated against under this regime,” added Murtaza Qureshi, backing the Yogi regime in Uttar Pradesh. “The benefits of all the schemes have been given to us as well. Whenever we’ve asked for any help from the MLA, it has been provided to us. Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas. We are voting for Brijesh ji,” asserted Qureshi.
This year, the Deoband Assembly constituency is scheduled to go to the polls on February 14, 2022, and the counting of votes will be held on March 10.