Rajasthan's Alwar, the ground zero of India's cow vigilantism, grapples every day with problems relating to drinking water and cleanliness but the biggest menace for citizens here is the presence of stray animals on city streets and they want to vote for those who can find a solution.
Rajasthan’s Alwar, the ground zero of India’s cow vigilantism, grapples every day with problems relating to drinking water and cleanliness but the biggest menace for citizens here is the presence of stray animals on city streets and they want to vote for those who can find a solution. With the poll fever catching up ahead of the state assembly polls on December 7, a casual walk in any part of the city, which has over 4.5 lakh residents and 2.45 lakh voters, is not possible without the sight of dumps of garbage along the roads with stray cows, dogs and pigs nibbling on it. Located in the eastern part of the state, Alwar shares a border with Haryana and forms a part of the Mewat region having a sizable population of the Mev (Muslim) community people.
About 60 km from Alwar city is Ramgarh and almost the same distance is Behror, both assembly constituencies which found place on national and global maps for incidents of alleged lynching of Muslim men on suspicion of cow smuggling. Pehlu Khan was allegedly lynched in April last year in Behror, while Rakbar Khan met a similar fate at the hands of cow vigilantes in Behror in July this year.
Hardliner Hindutva leader Gyan Dev Ahuja, who often made controversial statements regarding the cases of cow vigilantism, failed to get a BJP ticket from Ramgarh, which has majority Mev population, and he chose to quit the party to file nomination from Sanganer in Jaipur as an independent candidate. The BJP has fielded Sukhwant Singh from Ramgarh while Congress is relying on Safia Zubair Khan.
In Behror, which has Yadavs as a dominant community, both parties have fielded Yadav candidates, while locals said lynchings are a non-issue in their assembly seat. “People are more concerned about other crimes like robberies and murders. Lynchings are not even being mentioned in political campaigns,” said Ashvini Yadav.
Dr S C Mittal agreed that stray animals including cows, dogs, pigs are a big menace along with the problem of cleanliness in the city and said the local authorities have “not been sincere” in their efforts to mitigate people’s woes. “I frequently handle emergency cases of people who get attacked by stray animals or meet accidents due to these animals. Kisi ko gaay seengh maar deti hai, kisi ko saand utha ke patak deta hai (someone gets hit by a cow, someone by an bull),” he said.
The 64-year-old, living in the city since 1985, said people go to the government hospital and other private hospitals too but the cases remain “under-reported” even though the magnitude is much high. Lokeshwari Mathur, 58, said the road conditions have only deteriorated, there is no cleanliness, while stray cows and garbage dumps are a common sight all over the city.
She also lamented that public utilities are not taken care of and highlighted how encroachment is becoming a major problem in the city. “I can no longer ride my scooter in the city because of traffic and bad roads,” the housewife said, claiming the number of women riding two wheelers in the city has gone down over the years.
Congress candidate from Alwar city, Shweta Saini, said the seat has been with the BJP for last 10 years but no work has been done. The BJP realised that the public is angry which resulted in a major debacle for them in Lok Sabha bypoll, she said. “This only led to cancellation of ticket of the sitting MLA which proves they have failed to work for people and by changing the face they are hoping to reduce that anger,” she claimed.
Saini said Alwar falls in the National Capital Region and has always been a simple, peaceful city. “There should have been only good addition to that but instead the turned city into hell and pushed politics in Nagar Parishad, which is responsible for maintaining civic amenities like roads, drainage and cleanliness in the city,” she said.
Ankit Anil Bhargava said Alwar has slipped from 343 to 364 and then on to the 376th rank on the national cleanliness index in the last three years in a country of 434 cities. “We, the youth, would try to ensure that candidates who are not serious towards basic issues like cleanliness and stray animals do not win from Alwar. This election, we want agenda to be cleanliness, employment opportunities and not temple, cow or jumla (hollow promises),” Bhargava, 33, said.
When contacted, MLA Banwari Lal Singhal, who has been replaced by Sanjay Sharma as the BJP candidate for the December 7 assembly poll, declined to talk, either over phone or in person. The BJP district unit chief Sanjay Singh Narooka, however, said a lot of development work has been done in the last five years of his party’s regime.
Congress district chief Tika Ram Jully alleged that the BJP has always tried to ensure a communal angle to issues and sought to know what was being done about mob lynchings by the saffron party, which is in power in local municipal body, the state as well as at the Centre. “If these incidents have not stopped, it reflects that they are not capable of governing. They only bring up these points ahead of elections to give it a religious colour and encash on it,” he told PTI.