UP Polls: RSS’ Shudh Hospitality & Darul Uloom’s Buff Slaughter
In poll-bound western UP, we visited an RSS-run school & Deoband’s Darul Uloom Madrasa.
We had just gone past the rows of lily white, pathan suit-attired students shuffling up the fast-moving queue to take their respective portions of the fragrant nihari in small steel containers and freshly baked soft tandoori chapatis.
Behind the red-bricked mess attached to a wing of one of the hostels for senior students at the Deoband Darul Uloom in western UP’s Saharanpur district, five buffalo calves, who we initially mistook for having strayed into the campus, had been rustled up.
No more than 10 metres away, a man dressed in a grey track-and-jump suit paced up and down, a six-inch knife gripped tightly in his right fist. Two tall men, their muscles bulging and rippling under their fraying sweaters, pushed one of the bewildered beasts to a corner along the 150-year-old wall and in one powerful heave felled the animal on the kill floor.
Dinner is Served
Acting with lightning speed, another man grabbed the ears and stretched tight the curved throat of the stunned calf, its limbs askew. The knife-wielding man moved fast, bending over slightly and in two quick motions sliced the animal’s jugular. Blood sprung out in a thick fountain as the hiss of escaping oxygen and the gurgling liquid was clearly audible. The calf’s limbs flayed for a while before they went limp. The crowd of young men gathered at the macabre site watched with intense eyes, their irises bulging, the nerves on their temples taut.
The other four beasts, one of whom was spared a few more seconds of its life for a last urination, were felled and slaughtered in quick succession. Soon broad smiles broke on the tense faces in the assembled crowd. Some whispered a prayer, others walked away, satisfaction writ large on their bearded faces. Friday’s dinner will be a delight.
“Since it is a halaal slaughter, the blood inside the bodies will keep the meat warm before it is cooked tonight,” explained Sayyed Irshad, who we had befriended when we entered the hallowed portals of one of Islam’s greatest centres of learning. Irshad has left behind his parents and siblings in Kashmir’s Baramulla to spend two years at Deoband to complete the highest degree, called Dohre Hadis.
Meat is served every evening, while “gosht biryani” is on the menu “thrice or four times” a month, Irshad said. Daal is served for lunch. Students are free to use LPG stoves which they install, at their own cost, in their rooms.
Of gentle demeanour, Irshad walks along and gives us a guided tour of the sprawling campus now in the midst of an expansion programme. A massive library, its external architecture resembling an ancient Greek colosseum, is coming up on one side. Before we reach the under-construction library, we bump into Mehdi who was focused on taking a photo of his identity card with his Samsung smartphone.
Students From Across the Globe
“Mein Thailand se hoon (I’m from Thailand),” Mehdi said in a sing-song Hindi/Urdu patois. This time, our eyes bulged out in disbelief at Mehdi’s command over Hindi which he has picked up in the four years he has been at Darul Uloom. There were more surprises in store for us. When Mehdi grinned at our surprise, he revealed a set of teeth that have begun to turn red.
“Yeh to paan aur zarda chabane se hua hai (This is because of chewing paan and tobacco),” Mehdi said as he stroked his wispy beard.
Deoband, and certainly UP, seems to have had a profound impact on Mehdi who revealed that he hails from Taak in Thailand’s Mei Sot district. He will visit home during Ramzan later this year. Foreign and Indian students mingle in the true spirit of Islam’s universal brotherhood. We too were welcome to join a senior class that was to be held in the basement under main mosque after the Maghrib prayers.
“Fight Between SP and BSP”
It is Friday jumma, which is a welcome break for all students of Darul Uloom from the punishing schedule of incessant recanting of Quranic verses, tomes of Arabic scriptures and law books through the week. The would-be Islamic scholars and ulema spill out of the hostels, some focused on buying Arabic books, others choosing skull caps in a cramped shop, many more speaking into their cellphones, others gorging on papaya pieces and yet others simply hanging out in groups.
Electoral politics is also part of the animated chatter. Abdul Kabir, one of the contractors engaged in the construction of the new library building, puts Deoband’s politics in context, saying: “Akhilesh Yadav sure has worked. Development did take place. Here, it will be a fight between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Both have given tickets to Muslim candidates,” Kabir explains, chipping in with his verdict that the “voters of Deoband will of course prefer the stronger of the two Muslim candidates.”
Obaidul Karim, a student who hails from Azamgarh, also waxes eloquent over Akhilesh Yadav’s “development drive”, though he admits that it takes him 22 hours to reach his village by train.
Outside, in the main lane leading to the campus, a number of anxious students and some Deoband residents have queued up at the local Punjab and Sind Bank ATM – the aftereffects of demonetisation continues in Deoband. In the line, we met a senior student from “Assam” which is a convenient cover for Bangladeshi students who are loathe to reveal their real identity. His bangaal accent, however, blew his cover.
‘Love Jihad’ and a Plate of Biscuits At Shishu Mandir
After a tour of his school, Hari Om Sahasrabuddhe, the principal of the RSS’ Saraswati Shishu Mandir, in Muzaffarnagar’s Keshavpuri neighbourhood, offered us a plate each of slivers of ripe guavas and bananas. Sweet tea and biscuits followed.
His views on ‘love jihad’ in election-bound Uttar Pradesh notwithstanding, Sahasrabuddhe’s hospitality was overwhelming. The wall behind his chair was adorned with large hand-painted portraits of the RSS’ two stalwarts, KB Hegdewar and MS Golwalkar. The other walls were lined with the portraits of a few Indian freedom fighters.
Maintaining ‘Bharatiya Parampara’
Jaipal Singh, the local RSS Sah Praanth Sampark Pramukh, who took us to meet Sahasrabuddhe holds the opinion that “in the name of imparting knowledge in English, the English-medium schools are westernising Indian children.” But at schools such as Sarswati Shishu Mandir, “Bharatiya mool vikas-dhara aur shiksha par zor dete hain,” Singh said, pointing to the photo gallery on the walls and adding: “Angrezi school mein mahapurushon ke chitra nahin milenge (The English-medium schools won’t have photos of ‘Mahapurush’).”
As Singh extolled on “Bharatiya parampara”, the bespectacled principal berated parents of errant wards who bunked school and did everything naughty kids usually do.
To one student of Class VIII, who stood to his left with folded palms, he thundered: “Sirf baarah din ka homework! Tum ghar ke kisi bade ke paon chhute ho school jaane ke pehle? Tumhara dost hai Vishal char subjects mein fail hua hai (Only 12 days of homework! Do you touch the feet of your elders when you leave for school? Your friend Vishal has failed in four subjects).”
And on and on he went with his tongue-lashing as the student put up a masterly act of fake remorse. He was so very sorry for letting his parents down, whining “ab kabhi nahin karunga (won’t do it again in the future)” as Sahasrabuddhe exploded in anger. He then walked up to his parents mumbling “mujhe maaf kar do (please forgive me)”.
What got Sahasrabuddhe’s goat was that the student would wake up at 6 every morning and, first thing he would do is turn on the TV, but not take a shower. So, he now turned on the parents who took the principal’s verbal storm with their heads hung. “Bachcha tumhara hai, tum nahin dekhoge to kaun dekhega? (He is your child, if you don’t supervise what he does, who will?),” Sahasrabuddhe bristled.
‘Model Citizens’ of India
Sahasrabuddhe is not as hard a task master as Dronacharya. He too has a heart. So, he softened down on rusticating the student and gave him another chance as the kid and his parents trooped out of his room.
He then took out a thick sheaf of students’ results from his desk drawer and said, “Yeh dekhiye. Yeh sub fail huye hain. Ab mein kya karun inka? Inke ghar-ghar jaa kar samjhata hoon, par…(Look at these. These students have failed. What do I do with them? I go to their homes and try to make them understand, but…)
For all the RSS’s efforts in western UP to make model citizens of the pupils who attend its schools, there is a struggle that often exasperates teachers such as Sahasrabuddhe who have devoted their lives to make patriotic and nationalist men and women out of their students.
We sat through a Class I session on basic Hindi words which the students were expected to learn by rote. The teacher first called out the words, one-by-one, before instructing the students to go to the black board to identify and repeat the words.
The girls turned out to be smarter than the boys. But the general picture was dismal: A bored teacher going through the motions of teaching; the pupils no wiser than before the session began.
In a Class VIII session on Physical Education – a subject preferred by girls – the teacher was in full flow, explaining in great detail the nuts and bolts of a project on kho-kho, which the students were expected to prepare as it fetched 10 out of 100 marks on the subject. The teacher spent a good deal of time telling the girls the precise measurements of a kho-kho ground and the number of players involved in the sport.
UP’s ‘Love Jihad’ Qissa
When we met up with Sahasrabuddhe again in his room, the two plates of guavas and bananas took little time to appear. As we devoured the fruits, Sahasrabuddhe launched into an analysis on what ails UP the most: ‘Love jihad’ and how young Muslim boys take to “patao (woo)” Hindu girls.
“The money for all this comes from Saudi Arabia,” Sahasrabuddhe said, but he was at a loss for words when asked how the money finds its way to remote corners of western UP to contribute to the purchase of “motorbikes, trendy clothes, sunglasses” that young Muslim boys use to “befriend innocent Hindu girls” who are then “lured to marry them” and “ultimately get converted to Islam”.
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