By Kalyan Chatterjee
22 April, 2019
The strangest thing about this town in the
Rohilkhand region of Western Uttar Pradesh is that it sits on goldmine of
heritage about which its people are completely oblivious barring an exception
The electoral contest centres around the
success or failure of attempts to polarise the population along religious lines
keeping in view its large Muslim population. The great Sufi tradition of Budaun
lies forgotten in the sparring between political rivals for this Lok Sabha
At first glance it appears to be a pretty
ordinary town with narrow and dirty streets and lanes lined with even dirtier
drains. As one meanders down these lanes where e-rickshaws, motorbikes and cars
literally brush past each other, one is suddenly in front of a huge gate with
arches. Just by crossing the gate the visitor is magically transported into an
altogether different world for in front stands the majestic and beautiful Jama
Masjid, a 13th century mosque built by the same Turkish Slave dynasty ruler
Shamsuddin Iltutmish who completed the Qutub Minar in Delhi too.
The contrast between the mosque with its
domes, arches and pillars and beautiful decorations and the surrounding
run-down lanes and houses is stark. The former speaks of aesthetics and power
while the latter is representative of neglect and squalor and of course an
inactive municipal body. A little way away from the Mosque is the home of a
latter-day famous son of Budaun, Shakeel Badayuni, Bollywood’s lyricist of
‘Chaudhvi Ka Chand’, the Guru Dutt masterpiece.
An A-4 size poster is pasted on the outer
wall of an otherwise dilapidated house where he was born is the only sign that
explains the ‘Badayuni’ part of Shakeel’s name. His descendants live in the
house but are not rich people as is evident from the disrepair of the house.
Rashid, 50 and Ruman 25 are among the descendants who live there. They are
painters but perhaps can’t afford to carry out the long overdue coat of paint
that their ancestral house (and that of Shakeel) needs.
Most Muslims by tradition are supporters of
the Samajwadi Party as are Rashid and Ruman. But this time a twist has been
given to the tale by the defection of a major Samajwadi leader and former minister
Abid Raza to the Congress. Raza is vice president of the state unit and his
support has considerably boosted the chances of the party’s candidate Salim
Sherwani as many Samajwadi supporters are Abid Raza loyalists as well. The
alliance candidate Dharmendra Yadav is the sitting MP and is considered to be
the strongest of the three. The Bharatiya Janata Party has put up Sanghamitra
Maurya who is the daughter of state cabinet minister Swami Prasad Maurya.
But the essence of Budaun is the large
number of Dargahs that it has many of which are in a state of neglect. Hazrat
Nizamuddin, whose Dargah is in Delhi, was born in Budaun. In the town itself is
the Dargah of Hazrat Mazak Mian which is visited by many pilgrims. Maulvi
Mohammad Izhar Ali Shah, 70, attends to those who come to the shrine to hoping
to get a solution to their life’s problems.
The Maulvi, a descendant of the Pir, felt
that the people of Badaun were neglecting the many Mazars that dotted the town.
The welfare of the town and harmony between different communities depended on
these traditions of Badaun. He was critical of Muslims who were trying to
monopolise some of these Mazars and denying Hindus the traditional access to
His own ancestors he claims came from
Medina in the 12th century and settled down in Budaun. “People from outside the
town come and get Faiz (peace, goodwill) from the Dargahs but the people of
this town itself do not appreciate the power of this tradition.” Mohammad
Ishtiaq, a cobbler who has a shop in the heart of the town near the
hundred-year-old clock tower agrees and describes this area as a ‘Peerana’.
“The town is full of Mazars.”
His associate Ashraf Hussain says that
business is not good these days. Of course, the currency ban affected business
but the recent greater demand for cheaper foam shoes has also meant that there
is less work for Ashraf since his speciality is leather. “The demand has
changed to foam and my forte is leather… in any case there is a shortage of
leather.” Is there communal harmony in Badaun? Yes there is, he says, recalling
that there were clashes a very long time back – in 1989. But at that time, they
were provoked by outsiders.
Brijendra Patel, 55 the owner of a
provision store opposite the Hazrat Mazak Mian Dargah too recalls the communal trouble
of 1989 and speaks of Muslim domination in the area. But even as he puts BJP
stickers on the walls outside his shop he is critical of the policies of the
The policies of the UPA government were
easy to understand and the benefits were clear to everyone. But it was very
difficult to comprehend the polices of the NDA government which were extremely
complicated. Brijendra’s son Ankur, 30 is an engineer and has worked in
Faridabad for some years. Now he helps his father out in the store. But he too
agrees that the Dargahs are not being looked after well and points to the row
of shops that obstruct the view of the Hazrat Mazak Mian Dargah. “They should
not have been built,” feels Ankur.
The rural areas of the district are not
poor and at this time of the year wheat grows in large areas. But the farmers
grow cash crops like potatoes and metha (commonly known in India as pudina) as
well. In Salarpur village Azhar Hussain, 30 has stacked up sacks of potatoes
for transportation to the vegetable markets.
“I get Rs. 6 per kilo at the wholesale
market,” says Azhar who is a graduate. After the potato crop mentha is planted
in the fields. Once the mentha is ready the farmers extract the oil which is
then stored and sold to get the best rates on the commodities exchange. Mentha
oil is used in food, flavouring, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry and
sells for about Rs. 1,500 per kilo.
Azhar’s father Salamat Hussain, 70, is a
Congress loyalist through thick and thin as is evident from the flag that flies
from the roof of his store room near his fields still carries the charkha
symbol, the original flag of the party. Did he join some other party when the
Congress fell on bad days? “No, I have always been with this party,” says
Salamat who has studied up to high school. He is general secretary of the
district Congress committee and a former Zilli Panchayat member. But his son
has benefitted from the Sikshamitra scheme of the Akhilesh Yadav government and
even became a teacher before the scheme was reversed by the current state
government of Uttar Pradesh.
A strong breeze blows as we sit under the
shade of ‘Chausa’ mango trees next to the sacks of potatoes, Salamat explains
his admiration for the Congress, a party that he joined as far back as 1971
thus, “I like their leaders and their honesty,” and is confident that Salim
Sherwani is going to win. He has a strong distrust for BSP leader Mayawati.
Salamat is an odd mixture of a man who is educated and yet has great faith in
the healing powers of the Chhote Sarkar and Bade Sarkar Dargahs, perhaps
representing the strange dilemma of Budaun.