Friday, May 01, 2009
India Muslim District Votes for Attention
Kishanganj - India's largest Muslim constituency
KISHANGANJ — While religious and communal lines usually mark election battles across Hindu-majority India, development is the key word in the northernmost district of Kishanganj, India’s largest Muslim constituency.
"What we need here is an educational movement," Mohamed Mudassir Alam, one of the residents, told IslamOnline.net on Thursday, April 30.
"Education is directly linked to development," noted the 27-year-old Muslim.
Voting in the third of five stages of the India's marathon general elections got underway on Thursday in many regions, including the Muslim-dominant constituency of Kishanganj in the northern state of Bihar.
Kishanganj has about 1.2 million eligible voters, among some 144 million voters in the Asian giant nation.
here are 16 candidates contesting the polls in the constituency, with two front runners from the ruling Congress party and the National People's Party (RJD).
Many of Kishanganj residents will be giving their votes to the candidate who gives more priority to development programs.
Realizing that, competing candidates have shunned religious and ethnic rhetoric, largely employed by candidates across the country, and promised to implement social and economic projects if elected.
"Each one of the candidates is playing the development card to woo the voters," a government official told IOL.
"The people of Kishanganj are not communal. This election is fought on the issue of development."
The election results are due on May 16, and no party is expected to win a clear majority with the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) going head-to-head in many areas.
Like his main contenders, Maulana Asrar ul Haque, the Congress candidate, pledges swift development reforms if elected.
"By not connecting adjoining villages to Kishanganj through roads and bridges, Public representatives have thrown Kishanganj into an abyss of darkness," he told IOL.
Lush-green Kishanganj, where Muslims constitute almost 80 percent of the population, is known as the most backward district in the country.
Many residents have migrated lately because of the lack of employment opportunities and the large scale poverty and malnutrition.
Kishanganj is also known as the region with the least female literacy in the country.
"Only 30% of the total population is literate here."
Many Muslims believe that Kishanganj has been a victim of institutionalized bias like many other Muslim-dominant areas.
"The area has its special place on the country’s map due to its closeness to international borders with Bangladesh and Nepal," notes Alam.
"But sadly, despite its important position… the area never got proper attention from the state or the central government."
He has stopped believing in politician's promises.
"Only Muslims have been elected from this constituency but still it lags behind in almost all walks of life," he fumes.
"They have connived with the government in order to continue their lavish lifestyle."
But Imran Aslam, another resident, has not lost all hope in politicians to give attention to their much ignored district.
He supports the Congress candidate and hopes this time promises would not end up as empty words.
"We need change. At least Kishanganj desperately needs change."
IslamOnline April 30 2009