Gahmar (Ghazipur): Situated on the banks of the holy river Ganga at a distance of about 40 kilometres from the Ghazipur district headquarters, Gahmar is known as the biggest village in the country based on area. Gahmar is also known because almost every family from the village is believed to have someone serving in the army.
NewsClick reached Gahmar to gauge the mood of the voters ahead of the polling in the village, especially when nationalism and national security have been being used as major poll planks by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Although senior party leaders like Amit Shah, Ghazipur BJP candidate Manoj Sinha and even Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have campaigned in the village, and have raised the issues like Pakistan, Balakot air strikes etc., veteran soldiers, locals and even the current lot which is preparing to join the Army do not seem convinced with the saffron party.
Durga Chaurasia, the pradhan pati or the husband of the village headwoman says, “The villagers are listening to each and every one. The villagers are not showing their dissatisfaction over the politicisation of Army in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. But this time, the results from Gahmar may surprise everyone. A lot of people from the village have been sacrificing their lives for the nation since 1942 and no one should try to cash in on this for any reason whatsoever.”
He also said that despite the caste factor, which plays an important role in the elections, villagers of Gahmar stand united, and they will not let anyone misuse the name of the Army. “Such politicisation of our sacrifice will send a wrong message to the next generations,” he added.
The Gahmar village comprises 40% Thakurs, 20% Brahmins, 10% Dalits, 25% OBCs and 5% Muslims. Its population is about 30,000 as per the 2011 census. According to the villagers, close to 15,000 people from the village are currently serving in the armed forces, police forces and navy, while the number of those retired from these forces is about 12,000. Many of these retirees have also fought in the wars against Pakistan and China.
Manoj Kumar Upadhyay, a veteran soldier who retired from the Indian Army three years ago, told NewsClick, “It is good to take the name of the Army and boost morale of the men in the uniforms. But taking our name and using it to gain traction during elections is not done. Let the army be army, and you have other things like development, jobs etc. to convince the voters to vote for you. If you are really a patriot, then please try to bring improvement in our forces. If Tej Bahadur posted the video, then there must be 1% truth in it. So, you should work on that.”
Subhash Singh, another ex-soldier, who retired over 20 years ago, said that such politicisation of the Army is happening in the country for the first time.
“Today, everyone claims to be a patriot, while no one actually thinks about a soldier who stands at the border to guard the country, and sacrifices his life. Begging votes on the dead bodies of soldiers can never be justified, no matter how patriotic the government claims to be,” he said.
The contest in Ghazipur is between BJP’s sitting MP Manoj Sinha and Gathbandhan’s Afzal Ansari. The polling will take place on May 19.
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