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What do the voters of Shaheen Bagh say about the 2024 elections? – Copy

The Jamia Review went on ground in the Shaheen Bagh to understand first hand about the perspectives of voters about the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Okhla with the rest of East Delhi constituency votes on May 25,2024. Here is what the voters had to say:

Shaheen Bagh is an area that comes under the Okhla assembly constituency. It will vote on 25 May 2024 with the rest of East Delhi constituency in the Lok Sabha elections. It was the site of the famous nationwide protests against CAA and the sit-in organised by local women against the alleged CAA-NRC that might threaten the citizenship of millions of Muslim citizens. Now, the issue has died down and the CAA has been implemented and the scars and lessons of the protests remain with the people. Shaheen Bagh is now unusually quiet, a far cry from the inquilab slogans that reverberated in the streets in 2019. Amidst the high-voltage campaign, The Jamia Review travelled to Shaheen Bagh to catch the political pulse of the area and understand what the voters think about the Lok Sabha elections.

Caption: Shaheen Bagh

Ironing shirts swiftly while talking to us, Ramu, a 35 year old daily wager on the streets of Shaheen Bagh, told us about what he thinks about the upcoming elections. Hailing originally from Uttar Pradesh, he plans to travel to his hometown and give his vote there. As a citizen, he believes he has one thing that accounts to something, and that is his vote. 

His only hope from the election is that the rising inflation will improve. Earning only 400-500 per day, he believes, ironing, which is his generational work, is the only option for him, apart from farming back home, since he is not educated beyond 12th standard. Everything has become costly, he tells us and that he finds it hard to sustain his family with his ironing stall.

Caption: Ramu.

Md. Naseer, 55, a resident of Delhi works as a tailor on his roadside stall on a street of Shaheen Bagh. A profession passed down for generations, he is however unable to earn much profit from it these days, earning only between 200-400 rupees in a day. When asked about the upcoming elections, he has to say, “If you don’t vote then how will you be called a citizen”? He has voted in every election, and will vote in this one too.

He complains that the lane in front of which he puts his machine, has no trace of cleanliness. As a voter, he expects that every household should have at least one son who is a government employee. He feels there are no provisions for people from his background to get into the service sector. Naseer would like a pension plan even for the working class. 

Upon being asked about the current religious polarization, Naseer was quick to shout, “It’s all useless nonsense! Kaam apni jagah hai, Karam apni jagah hai, Dharam apni jagah hai”.

Echoing Md. Naseer’s thoughts, Kiran, 41, an alms beggar, sitting on the steps of a masjid in scorching heat, tells us that she believes religion is unnecessary in politics — “when people end up fighting over religion, the actual problems of the country are ignored and left unsolved. If a government, or a party does its job, people will no doubt vote for them”. Kiran is planning on giving her vote, along with her husband.

Caption: Md. Naseer.

Kiran has also studied till the 12th standard, and used to work in an NGO. But now, she has no job and has turned to asking for alms from passersby on the streets. She is willing to work, but claims that she has found no work. The biggest problem that Kiran faces, and believes the country faces is the rising inflation. People are helpless with unemployment. “The rich are getting richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class is crushed in between”.

Poor people are without food, jobs, and most importantly, proper healthcare. A lot of poor people, she says, die without even receiving any treatment. She feels a government should work on providing a secure future to the people, which includes education, and healthcare which should be made free for the poorer sections of society. 

Nayyam is a 35-year-old clothes shop owner in Shaheen Bagh. His biggest woe from the government is also the rising inflation. “Earnings are going down, things are getting expensive”, he expresses. 

Caption: Kiran.

The rent of Nayyam’s shop has increased from 25,000 last year to 35,000 this year and to make things worse, he has to pay it now from his pocket. Nayyam expects some relief is needed as inflation is skyrocketing. “I want things to improve. If a person is doing something then he should at least earn a little”, he wants.

Next to inflation, Nayyam thinks of the current religious polarization to be a major problem. Since he is in Shaheen Bagh, which is a Muslim majority area, he feels he is a little safe and can even say for others if there’s an injustice going on. On the other hand, in places like Sarita Vihar (a Hindu majority area), he would first ensure his safety before standing up for injustice against a member of his community.

“You have come at this time, I have told you so many things here, had I been in Sarita Vihar, I probably would not have been able to say them”, he says. He and his older brother are voting this year on the 25th. He would cast his vote based on improvement, especially in the business sector. 

Caption: Nayyam.

Report by: Ayesha Alim and Mukaram Shakeel for TJR.
Photos by: Junaid Rub for TJR.

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