‘Airstrikes Great, But Not Voting on That Basis’: Malda Residents
Video Editor: Mohammad Irshad Alam
West Bengal will see seven phases of polling in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. A key district that will go to vote in Phase 3 of the polling process in Malda, which consists of two Lok Sabha constituencies – Malda North and Malda South.
With a Muslim population of over 52 percent, Malda has always been prone to communal polarisation. Additionally, the district, which borders Bangladesh is also notorious for other things like an illegal currency racket, arms trade, opium trade etc.
After the Balakot attacks were carried out by the Indian Air Force in retaliation to the Pulwama terrorist attack, there were reports of massive celebrations in Malda.
The Quint travelled to the border district to ask its people if the Balakot attacks will have an impact on these elections.
‘Don’t Know If Pakistan Suffered Any Losses’
Many of the respondents of The Quint’s chaupal said that they are not sure if the claims of the strike were true and whether the strike was carried out at all.
His sentiments were echoed by Riya Das, a student.
"It's okay that they've done it but it would have been better if we knew what exactly are the losses that Pakistan has suffered. We know that India is striking but what is the outcome of the strike? We don't know”, she said.
‘No Politics In The Name Of The Forces’
Almost all the people at the chaupal were of the opinion that no matter what the outcome of the strikes, it is wrong to ask for votes in their name. All of them also asserted that the forces must not be used for political gains.
“I don’t think there should be any politics on war. I will never support that. This is about the Indian Army. It is because of them that we are living in peace. India is at peace.The credit for this goes as much to the forces as it does to politics. We, therefore, have a responsibility towards the army so I will never want politics to get mixed up in all this”, said Papiya Das, a student.
Subroto Das, a shopowner, said that while the strikes were good for the nation, his vote will not be based on that.
“We are ordinary people. Political talk doesn't affect us. We will vote for whoever we want. From what we see in newspapers and on TV, it seems like a good thing that they've done. Nothing bad. Those people came and killed 40 of our soldiers and this is a retaliation to that. I don't know if they've actually killed anyone. But we are believing what we read,” he said.
‘We Stand United’
As a district which has seen communal violence in the recent past, communal peace and harmony is of top priority for the people of Malda. They say that attempts to polarise the community in the name of the Pulwama attacks will not work.
“Malda is a place where Hindus and Muslims live together. All our celebrations are together. We felt bad about Pulwama but we didn't let that cause a communal divide. In fact, it made us want to stay together even more,” said Papiya.
‘Want Another ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury In Malda’
When asked what their expectation from the next government is, Malda residents said that they want peace, women security and a representative who mirrors the work of Late ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury.
Ghani Khan Choudhury was a Congress stalwart who was part of both the Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi governments and represented Malda in the Lok Sabha for eight straight terms until his demise in 2006. He is credited with revolutionising Malda and bringing in unprecedented development in the state.
“Whoever goes to the Parliament from Malda, we want that person to be the second Ghani Khan Choudhury. They should mirror the work of Ghani Khan. The way ABA Ghani Khan Chaudhury has developed Malda, we want the next person to follow that path.They should not have to use his name. They should become a Ghani Khan themselves,” said Pradip Das.
“Our representative was ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury. He was the Railway minister. Whatever he said would get done. There's nobody now who appeals to our heart the way he did. We are not seeing any good Parliamentarians. If the Parliamentarian has to be good, he or she must be like ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury,” added Jayanta.