Pak, water main issues for Raj border villages

Women queuing up to fetch water in Bacsbhar village in Barmer, Rajasthan. Photo: Tabeenah Anjum

Unlike other border states that witnessed tense situation after surgical strikes and Balakot air strikes, smooth accessibility and good cross cultural ties with Pakistan are the significant issues in the Lok Sabha election, for some villages falling alongside the 1,048-km of border in Rajasthan.

At Gagriya, one of the villages situated on the Gadra road a few kilometers before India-Pakistan border, smooth access to Pakistan, availability of visas, stoppage of Thar express, beginning of cross-border trade between the two countries are the important election issues raised by people.

The village dominated by Muslim community reminisces the pain witnessed by the family of 65-year-old Reshma, an Indian citizen who died in Pakistan last year whose body was handed over to the family after 25 days. She used to live in Munabao village via the Khokhrapar-Munabao zero point road route on the Indo-Pak border.

It was difficult for the people of Balmer who have their relatives living in Pakistan, to travel to Pakistan for weddings, death ceremonies or festivals," Dost Ali, a resident of Gagriya told DH.

Residents are aware of the soaring tension between the two countries. They hope that the situation will become better with passing time. "A common man in Barmer wants easy accessibility to Pakistan because he has to visit his relatives. Even to board Thar Express we have to go to Jodhpur. We have been demanding that it should have a stop at Barmer. We want a peaceful cross-border relationship with Pakistan and those trying to disturb will be not forgiven," former sarpanch of Gagriya, Khanu Khan told DH

Interestingly the issue is also raised by Congress and BJP candidates in their road shows and public speeches. Water and cattle fodder are the other key issues here. Most of the villages lack water and are facing drought-like situation as there were no rains for last many years.

Barmer is geographically the largest parliamentary constituency in the county, and is dominated by Jats and Rajputs. Caste will play a decisive role here in elections. Out of 19.5 lakh voters, there are 4 lakh SC/ST, 3.5 lakh Jats, 2.5 lakh Rajputs, 3 lakh minorities and other communities.

Scheduled Castes and minority communities are considered to be largely supportive of the Congress. Both the Congress and the BJP are trying to woo SC/ST voters. Analysts believe that their vote will play a decisive role. The BJP is banking on Jat votes especially after the young Jat leader Hanuman Beniwal extended its support to the party.

The Congress has fielded former BJP stalwart and Rajput leader Jaswant Singh's son Manvendra Singh against BJP's Kailash Chaudhary, a Jat community leader.

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