Feeling safe, learning and unlearning nothing in Mewat.

One of the days while campaigning for AAP, Suchita and I stopped in a village market to buy a cotton scarf. We were wearing AAP caps and a tall man in a white turban, standing outside the store, asked, “Have you come from Delhi?”

“From Gurgaon, although some others have come from Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Kerala, from Philippines.”

He said, “Our vote is with AAP. All of us, our entire village of xyz is with you people.”

“Not with us, with AAP (meaning ‘you’). We are not politicians, we are just like you, common people, … mothers, working women, students… just volunteers… ” Meaning every word.

“No other party comes here and talks to us.”

“We didn’t think we would ever do this, but we decided that if we didn’t step out now, this situation will never change… ”

Lots of complaints. Absent and unavailable representatives, unfulfilled promises. More men joined with their grievances.

I asked, “Then what made you think AAP was better?”

They said (amongst other things) a lot of men in Mewat are truck drivers, and for the first time in sixty years, they did not have to pay to the police while entering Delhi (probably some kind of hafta) – for 49 days while Arvind Kejriwal was the CM of Delhi.

Some women knew of Kejriwal too. They had truck drivers in their families. Some women we met didn’t seem to have ever seen a polling booth, many seemed surprised that we were talking to them about voting. Many women said they would vote for whoever their family and community elders ask them to vote.

But some women (maybe the wealthier ones? ) seemed aware, disappointed and keen to talk about why they were angry with their representatives. They wanted us to take their messages to AAP, and they wanted jobs for their sons.

But here in that market that afternoon, the gathering crowd was all male.

We had to go further, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to talk to aware voters.

I said, “If they spend on winning elections, then they have to spend five years earning that money back…”

“Please sit. Have tea?” He insisted.

“No, thank you! We must move, we want to meet as many people as possible…”

We were on our way to a village further ahead, to talk to the women there, and I was wondering how safe we were here in the middle of this market. Two men were not in white, they were dressed in shirts and trousers, stopped to watch, grinning, and although they said or did nothing more…

I said, “We are visitors here, your guests in Mewat, neither our language nor our culture is the same. But we all belong to one nation, we all want the same things… we will all need to do our bit, no miracles are going to happen… ” Looking at the two men.

The old man in white turban stood taller and said, “I can guarantee you that you are welcome here in Mewat. You are our guests, please do sit in the shade, have tea.”

“No, please don’t bother … (but sitting down) How safe is Mewat? Gurgaon and Delhi have a lot of crime.”

“You don’t want to have tea with us…😦 ”

So we agreed to have half a cup of hot, sweet, milky, and very refreshing tea.

We felt safe. There were women working everywhere – in the fields, filling water, carrying heavy loads on their heads, taking care of children, even cutting fodder, doing some tasks that I have never before seen women do. And women in public spaces, even silent women in public spaces, did give a sense of safety.

The man in white turban told us how proud the Meo (people of Mewat) are. In the past a woman could wear all her jewellery and walk alone on the road, in the middle of the night, now it wasn’t that safe, but it wasn’t that bad either, he said, ‘some odd bad elements are everywhere’.

So we had chai par charchaa🙂

We reminded them that we were all equal and needed to work together. We had all been complaining, and hoping that this cycle of voting for the Evil and Lesser Evil ends, now we should do our share and participate in the change that can happen, but only if we do our bit…

Then I asked if they were offered cash or gifts for votes.

“No, nothing like that..”  There was no threat or fear either.

And then he made the same strange request many others had been making, “You should come here on the 10th of April. Be here on the polling day.”

“Campaigning is not allowed after the 8th …  You… We. We must all vote for ourselves, for schools for our children, for the road outside our houses, for water and electricity… If somebody pays us, then they have made an investment, and they would want it all back with interest, the money for our children’s schools will go in their pockets, and we can’t question because they have already paid us for our votes… but if you feel pressured, take the money but vote only for the candidate you think will work for you…”

“Be here on the 10th.” He repeated.

It was almost like an appeal, the same request.

Infact I felt, when they were moved by what we said, they asked us to be there on the 10th.

I didn’t understand this strange request until I read this post by Vidyut today, and I have no doubt this is exactly what they meant.

All the time we spent in Mewat, all the warmth, all the children who pestered us for caps and badges, and all women who held our hands – all those discussions, the looks that said, “We are with you in this fight for what we believe is right, and is our Right’ , frequently ending with, “Be here on the polling day’.

We were so naive. We were feeling so proud of having contributed, of having participated in the electoral process of the world’s largest Democracy. This battle is going to be tough and maybe long.

Do read – Gurgaon has reported 110 polling booth problems during polling ranging from outright booth capture to bogus voting.

Related Posts:

The future and AAP –  SHIV VISVANATHAN

Three young women… what do they have in common?

22 thoughts on “Feeling safe, learning and unlearning nothing in Mewat.

  1. IHM, I’d say that the Election Commission needs to be approached. The EC has called for re-elections to be held in some area of Bihar and Jharkhand where similar problems were present.
    Every candidate/party is allowed to have a ‘booth agent’ in each booth according to EC. Maybe that is what they meant- be here on polling day?

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      • I think what you did was wonderful, to reach out and engage with the rest of the people in your constituency. You should be proud of your efforts.

        If anything, this only highlights how there really are two Indias, and life in the other India is often a reality that is hard to stomach. Still, you never know, perhaps the voters in more urban areas of Gurgaon will ensure that Mr.Yadav wins?

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        • Not sure… the number of voters actually voting is much larger in rural India (if at all there is any real voting!) I think there should be a better method of ensuring free and fair elections. Some way to ensure nobody votes a second time and nobody with Voter ID is sent back – saw the latter happen where I volunteered in Gurgaon. Who is responsible if the voters’ names are not registered, even when they do have Voter IDs? And when they have been voting all along from the same address (etc)?

          It seems women never vote, when they do, someone goes with them and votes for them. Maybe all this will come out if an effort is made to find out.😦

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    • Edited to add: Googled and found this, can’t believe this – we saw a Mewat that was peaceful and very beautiful.
      //Mewat simmers after poll clash, killing of youth

      Communal tension simmered in the Mewat region of the Gurgaon parliamentary constituency in Haryana Friday after clashes between supporters of the INLD and BJP workers and the death late evening of a Muslim youth who had been taken to hospital with a gunshot injury.

      Police claimed the death of a youth, who had been shot and was found outside a shop in Punhana tehsil, was not connected to the clashes between supporters of the INLD and BJP in the same area. But as tension mounted, police stepped up presence and senior officers camped there to deal with the situation.

      Meos owing allegiance to the INLD clashed with BJP workers outside a polling booth in Nakanpur village in Punhana tehsil on Thursday. The BJP workers, who alleged they had been assaulted, retaliated later by targeting the Meos.

      AAP leader Yogendra Yadav, the party candidate from Gurgaon, accused the INLD and BJP of large-scale rigging in Mewat and Rewari.//
      http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/mewat-simmers-after-poll-clash-killing-of-muslim-youth/

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  2. I watch some popular and reputed journalists travelling through the country for their election specials and to my utter dismay most of the time the discussions, opinions are only by men. The women almost INVISIBLE.
    Their voice and presence always in the shadows, in villages and towns and even big cities except for maybe when the location is a university or a college.

    Also no one speaks about polling related criminal practices. Why the silence?

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    • The women were surprised, and young boys slightly amused that we were talking to women. Once the situation settles down, no matter what the election results, I would like to go back and maybe – once a week or so, and teach the children there. None of the children we met (in one particular village, the first one we went to) went to school. What future can they expect if even basic literacy is also not available?

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  3. First of all, congratulations for having taken up the baton of AAP.
    As a nation, we’re still to rise to the occasion when the country needs us. You’re talking about areas where women do not vote because they’ve not heard of it. Many haven’t even seen the polling booths.

    I would like to put forward the sad truth that people living in the cities also miss out on the voting proceedings! Educated people well aware of their fundamental rights but no respect towards their fundamental duties. Maybe, they’re waiting for someone to inspire them and instill back their faith in democracy!

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  4. Vidyut says, and I agree, //A random sample check for poll-mark on voters’ fingers will provide sufficient evidence of the mockery made of these elections. Having said that, one can’t put it past the district administration to go door-to-door inking fingers! The pace of a time-bound inquiry is, therefore, of essence.//

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  5. //There are voice clips on Facebook of a Presiding Officer wisely arriving at an ‘appropriate’ number of votes to be polled to each party. Of course, 70 per cent were secured for the INLD.

    A Superintendent of Police, who has settled in Mewat after retirement, said this was possibly the worst breakdown of law and order in Haryana that he had witnessed in his career.//

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  6. IHM this is scary. And very sad. The only party that holds out any real hope for Indias future is falling victim to the very system they set out to change. I had thought that in most places booth capturing and bogus voting was a thing of the past.

    I truly admire how you have decided to contribute towards this worthy cause. I wish I could have done the same.

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  7. Pingback: Thinking of Mewat on Earth Day. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  8. Pingback: “Girls need to be little bit aware of the consequences. Men – will enjoy …” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  9. hi, IH. if you do go to mewat again, i’d like to go with you. and help teach etc in whatever way i can. i am currently pursuing a phd in sociology and have been a booth agent for the AAP. i stay far from gurgaon, but i can take the metro and meet you somewhere along the way. please lets do this.

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