Muslims balance fears over CAA with development issues

Delhi assembly election 2020: Muslim voters balance fears over CAA-NRC with development issues

Representative image.

 Bollywood song from the 1980s plays somewhere outside and Imtiaz Hussain, sitting in his office in southeast Delhi's Batla House, listens attentively, nodding in agreement at the words of unity, oneness and love for the country.

On Friday evening, with just a few hours to go before the Delhi assembly elections, "Mera karma tu, mera dharma tu...Hindu Muslim Sikh Issai, Hum vatan hum naam hain" from Dilip Kumar starrer "Karma" strikes a particularly emotive chord for Hussain.

"Pakistan, Hindu-Muslim divide have been the focal point of this election. I have never seen such a polarised election," said the 68-year-old who was born in Old Delhi and has been living in the Okhla area for the last 15 years.

"Non-issues have been made issues," he said, pointing to a poster declaring "No-CAA, No-NRC, No-NPR". In his view, these should not be electoral issues at all.

Similar posters can be seen in the congested lane that houses his office and other shops, just two kilometres from Shaheen Bagh, the epicentre of the anti-CAA protests that became the core of the BJP's campaign.

Hussain is clear he will consider the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register along with issues such as water, electricity and sanitation when he votes on Saturday.

Caught between bread and butter issues and the CAA-NRC-NPR that they feel threaten their identity as Indians, many other Muslims across the city agree with Hussain.

In a city where Muslim voters constitute 13 per cent of the electorate and are scattered through Ballimaran, Matia Mahal, Mustafabad, Okhla, Babarpur and Seelampur and other localities, the CAA and NRC have emerged main issues alongside everyday development issues.

The Aam Aadmi Party, which is pitching for a second term in power, has rolled out several free schemes and has promised to continue them if it comes to power.

But Abrar Ahmed, 32, a businessman in northeast Delhi's Seelampur locality, isn't sure if it will work for his community.

"If we are not citizens of this country, what will be the use of free electricity, water and wi-fi? We want this Act to be revoked," Ahmed said.

However, potable water is a major issue in his area, he added.

"I was suffering from cancer and completed my chemotherapy three months ago. The doctors told me to drink only packaged water for at least three months," Ahmed said.

He is also unhappy that the AAP did not take any stand against CAA-NRC, Article 370 and triple talaq.

"Women have been staging a protest at Shaheen Bagh and the chief minister has not uttered a single word on the matter," he said.

But Hussain is not too concerned.

"We know who has worked and who has not," he said.

According to Muhammad Javed, 50, who owns a printing press in Ballimaran in old Delhi, the polarising campaign could reap some electoral dividends but it would be limited at best.

"The common man wants to earn a decent living and live his life without bothering anyone. They have never, and they will never, root for fights between Hindus and Muslims.

"Their demands are simple: better government schools, cheap electricity, safe water and affordable health facilities. Whichever party gives them this will get the votes, and I believe that AAP has done reasonably good on this count and hence would win the elections," said Javed.

Farida Begum, 55,, who has been protesting at Shaheen Bagh since the protest began in December said the only factor for her will be the repealing of CAA.

The young appear to have their own concerns.

Shoaib Malik, 24, who is doing his masters in Urdu from Jamia Millia Islamia, and Shamas Malik, 19, a first time voter said they have given a youth manifesto to AAP and Congress.

"We have made a youth manifesto and given both the parties. 'Gyms in each ward', 'library & book bank for the area', 'gynaecologist and special camps for women health', 'skills development centre cum counselling desk for the youth' and 'free wi-fi' are some of our demands," said Shoaib.

Mohammad Saad, 17, a student of the Jamia Secondary School, is clear about what he would like to do if he could exercise his franchise.

"Good infrastructure, good education are the issues I would have voted for. There was no need for CAA when our economy is struggling," Saad said.

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