Along the Porbandar coast, we met a youth who had just finished offering namaz at Mehboob Shah mosque. Yakub Menon is working in Porbandar nowadays but lives in Keshod in Junagadh district of Gujarat.
When I talked to Menon about the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls, he was very clear and crisp in his response. "The Muslim community does not trust (Narendra) Modi," he said. He added that the government is interfering with their religious affairs and the way in which the government is taking up the triple talaq issue is not justified.
Menon also said, "at present, the Muslim community in Gujarat has the highest poverty rate and the backwardness and education level is also quite low. However, the government does not pay any attention to it. So much so that the government which talks about 'Digital India' cannot even provide us the basic facilities."
Standing along with Menon, Nawaz Khan said that the government should do what it promises but, the Modi government has failed to do what he promised.
Although Khan has not yet reached the eligible voting age, he said, "there will be a change this time. Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh had done a better job."
After visiting several areas of Saurashtra region, we wanted to know what the Muslim community was thinking about this upcoming election. To know this, we went to Mehboob Shah mosque where Khan and Menon rejected the development model of the present government.
Amin, who runs a medical shop in Porbandar, said that the biggest problem of the Muslim community at present is backwardness and illiteracy. However, no work ever happens in Muslim areas, he said. "The MPs, the legislators and municipal corporations are all BJP but still, our work never gets done," he added.
Salim Bhai Nagori, who takes care of his family by running an autorickshaw, also raised questions about the cleanliness and other issues in Muslim areas. While talking about supporting a particular party in the Assembly elections, he said, "I won't tell you which party I will support but in the area, BJP is more prominent."
However, Hassan Bhai Parmar, standing next to Salim Bhai, said that he will vote for the Congress.
When we talked to the people coming out of the mosque after prayers, there were a lot of complaints about the development and the condition of the Muslim community. We then visited the area dominated by Muslims.
Muslim area is untouched by development?
Sheetla Chowk is just 400 meters away from Kirti temple, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. It was named Sheetla Chowk because of Sheetla mata temple. Just next to the chowk, is Memanwad area, which is dominated by Muslims.
As soon as we entered the area, we saw broken roads and drain water flowing on these roads. Situation got worse as we went further. Only a short distance from the Kirti temple, people were quarelling about the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. It became impossible to pass through the area because of the dirt on the roads.
Abdul gafar, who runs a computer class in the area, said "there is no work in our area." His description of development as 'madness' was enough to reflect the mood of the entire Muslim community.
Why are the Muslims in Porbandar angry?
Azim Modi, who works in the fishing business, said that when in 2002, there were riots in other areas of Gujarat, there was no difference here. "This area adjacent to the Kirti temple is a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. Yet, we don't get any justice," he added. His complaint was that Muslims are discriminated against and there are no facilities in his area.
Just a few months ago, there was resentment among the Muslims over the controversial statement of Rajkot's Lady Don Sonu Dangar. They were upset because the BJP did not take any action against her.
We talked to a number of other people in the Memanwad area but everyone had the same complaint. Abdul Gafar blamed the BJP for their poor education facilities. He said that education in schools has gone astray. "All government school and colleges do not give good education. Education is being privatised," he said. His complaint was that only the BJP legislators were reaping the benefit of privatisation because most of the private colleges are in their name.
In Gujarat, the Muslim population is around 9 percent and they are only influential in about 25-30 seats. Despite that, Muslim legislators could only manage two out of the 182 seats. This is also troubling the Muslim community of Porbandar.
Amin said that some people will vote for the BJP even this time because for their self-interest. There are not much Muslims in the Porbandar Assembly. About 15,000 Muslims still support Congress' Arjun Modhwadia.
No effect of BJP's attempts
The government, who talks about sabka sath sabka vikas, is trying to assuage the Muslim community. After the Modi government came to power at the Centre, the Haj quota for Gujarat Muslims got increased to 15,000. Several schemes have also been started for the benefit of the Muslims.
In Uttar Pradesh elections, the issue of triple talaq proved effective for the BJP. It was thought that the BJP got support from a handful of Muslim women. However, it seems that it will take time to change BJP's perception among the Muslims.
Updated Date: Nov 26, 2017 12:22 PM