Gujarat (Amdavad/Juhapura) has a partition wall between H/M ghettos– 2-nation theory as practiced in Gandhi-land (also Jinnah-land -both old and new).
OTOH Gujarat has been riot-free since 2002, while Dravida/Shudra/OBC factions belonging to Tamil Nadu ruling coalitions frequently organize mass riots against Dalits.
Gujarat resembles Pakistan most in its application of anti-alcohol dictates.
A Pakistani travels through India as the world’s biggest
democracy votes in the national elections. Follow his journey to know
what happens and all the people that he meets on the way.
Electricity in Gujarat is completely uninterrupted. Nobody knows what
load shedding means. It is unbelievable for a Pakistani who have only
known 24/7 pizza home delivery! People complain that electricity in
Gujarat is more expensive than other states. I tried to compare it with
what I pay back there, though not a sound way, and was surprised that
most here pay not much if not less than me. But probably the more
important fact is that all of them do pay — Prime Minister House and
Chief Minister House included.
Women are the safest in Gujarat and you do not need witnesses to believe
that. It is evident. Just take a walk on the road side and you will see
women and young girls commuting all around freely and independently. I
was with a group late in the night out for an after dinner cup of tea
when a young female friend received phone call from her mother in Delhi.
“Mom says you are out so late. Ahmedabad is spoiling you,” she told her
friends and the party went on.
If development is a (political) party, then everyone is certainly not
invited. Nothing comes for free here and the fact that everyone cannot
pay is explained away in many ways. The poor remain unserved. But in
Ahmedabad there is another ‘class’ that remains unserved too — Muslims.
The picture is of a corner of Ahmedabad’s largest Muslim ghetto,
Juhapura. It has an estimated population of 200,000 and makes ends meet
without the state providing it any civic service.
The schism within: Ahmedabad’s biggest Muslim ghetto, Juhapura, is
separated from Hindu colonies by walls at most of the meeting points.
People tauntingly call it ‘the border of the mini-Pakistan’. The walls
have not been constructed by the government but by the Hindu colonies
themselves and stand as the ‘concrete’ evidence of the deep divisions
that this state suffers from.
Housing apartheid: Each housing colony in Ahmedabad comes with a
religious label. Jains do not share living space with Hindus and Hindus
will hesitate giving their house on rent to Bengali Hindus who are not
vegetarians and exclusion of Muslims.
Communal ghettoisation: Juhapura is the biggest Muslim ghetto of
Ahmedabad. Though it looks like a slum, it is not an exclusive habitat
of poor Muslims. You can easily find impressive bungalows in every
street. Most of them took residence here after the 2002 anti-Muslim
riots as they do not feel secure living anywhere else. Muslims do live
in other parts of the city but an increased tendency of living in close
clusters is more than evident everywhere in the city.
Election Commission in India is quite strict and all the stakeholders
have to take its words very seriously. I roamed around in Ahmedabad on
the polling day i.e. 30 April. The security staff at polling stations
was vigilant and their understanding of their election duties was
impressive. A security man stopped a young man with a party flag in this
hands at the gate telling him to hide it as electioneering is not
permitted on polling day.
Under Indian election laws, electioneering has to be seized 48 hours
before the polling. I took a round of the city of Ahmedabad a day before
polling. There was nothing anywhere that could tell that there was
campaigning going on in the city. Billboards of the parties were taken
down as soon as the deadline expired and the only visible reminders of
elections were the Election Commission’s advertisements calling people
Ahmedabadis are food fanatics. Every believer carries a list of items
that he/she cannot eat. While some would want to ensure that their
muffin do not contain any animal-based ingredient, everyone is not this
strict. Food ‘edicts’ reflect in socialisation as well in many
interesting ways as people cross boundaries to express their affection
for their friends from the other side of the divide or as a sign of
rebellion from their traditions. But others, like myself, are just
Jains are the most finicky about what not to eat. If one goes by the
book, their negative list includes all animal-based products and
everything that grows under ground. So they don’t eat meat of any kind,
eggs, onions, garlic, etc. They have their grocery stores and won’t eat
out at places that serve both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. But a
friend jokingly told me that if you prepare chicken without onions and
garlic, it is called Jain chicken!
Cricket wars: Like most other parts of South Asia, cricket is a craze in
Ahmedabad too. But for Muslims here, it comes with a pinch of salt.
Their reactions to matches between India and Pakistan are closely
watched by others and any celebration of Pakistan’s success is seen as
‘an act of treason’. “If I support Ricky Ponting, they have no problem
but any praise for Afridi’s sixer can make my Indian credentials
questionable,” said a Muslim school teacher in Ahmedabad.
There are many Muslim localities in old Ahmedabad city that has some impressive heritage sites.
Board game at Rani’s Hajira (probably meaning, hujra/living quarter) in
Ahmedabad old city. In Muslim localities, people were more apprehensive
about being photographed and these included not the women but younger
men. Every other person here has a story of police harassment to tell.
Gujarat is the only major state in India that is dry — alcohol trade is
banned. People belonging to other states and residing here get some
legal relaxation but public drinking is not a norm. Alcohol though is
smuggled from other states, especially from Rajasthan. On this Ahmedabad
road, you can however stop to enjoy soft drinks at the cart that has
named itself Kashmiri Soda Center.