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Punjab town that won’t be divided by political & religious hatred

Muslim-majority Malerkotla remains unaffected by polarising narratives

Punjab town that won’t be divided by political & religious hatred

Jabar and Mohammed Saleem along with their friends discuss how it is important to maintain harmony during polls outside the Badi Idgah at Malerkotla. Photo: Vicky



Tribune News Service

Ruchika M Khanna

Malerkotla, May 27

Politics and religion have been known to divide people, but not so in this only predominate Muslim town in Punjab that falls in the Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency. Here, over decades, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs have learnt to live in harmony, by accepting and imbibing one another’s way of life.

Malerkotla remains unaffected by the heat even as the political rhetoric reaches its peak in Sangrur constituency. This, incidentally, is the de facto political capital of the state, considering that Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and three of his Cabinet colleagues — Harpal Cheema, Aman Arora and Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer (who is also the Aam Aadmi Party’s candidate for the election), are from this constituency.

For women, drug abuse a key issue

  • The women in Malerkotla have been questioning the candidates and their supporters on issues that directly hit them. Naseem and Nahida Parveen, who live near the Sabji Mandi, rue how many men and children in their area, have become addicted to drugs
  • Increasingly, women have started asking candidates what they propose to do about the rampant drug abuse, because “we earn the money, while the men squander it away on buying drugs”. “Our vote will go to the candidate who offers a solution to this problem,” they say

Interestingly, what bothers people here more is the rising atmospheric heat and the unannounced power outages, than the political stalwarts in the electoral arena. Other than Hayer, also in the poll fray are MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira, a former AAP MLA and CM Mann’s bete noire, as the Congress candidate; former MLA Arvind Khanna as the BJP candidate; and Iqbal Singh Jhunda as the SAD nominee. They are vying amongst each other to wrest the seat from sitting MP belonging to Akali Dal (Amritsar), Simranjit Singh Mann.

“Elections happen every two and a half years, both Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha elections. Each person has the right to his political choice and we in Malerkotla respect that. It comes from our tradition of celebrating all festivals and social functions together, between Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. Thankfully, the candidates have respected this and no one has tried to polarise votes,” say Jabar and Mohammad Saleem, as they sit at Taj Tea Stall outside the Badi Idgah here.

In fact, the area around one of the most revered Dargahs here, the Dargah of Baba Haidar Sheikh at 786 Chowk, is inhabited by Hindu families. “The political leanings of both communities are different. But we are not letting this affect us. The BJP, which has not warmed up to Muslims here, has a following among these families, but there is no tension whatsoever,” Babu Pehalwan, living in the area, told The Tribune. The challenge that he (BJP candidate Khanna) faces is from the farm unions that won’t allow him to campaign, he rues.

At Sirhindi Gate, Mohammad Khalid and Taj Mohammad discuss how the political fight has formalised between the Congress, AAP and Akali Dal (Amritsar). While the 300 units of free power by AAP government continue to woo them, they seem equally inclined towards Congress, swayed by their “pro-poor and pro-minority leanings”. Simranjit Singh Mann, whose win at the hustings in the 2022 Sangrur Lok Sabha bypoll, was written off by many as a political aberration, too, has his pockets of influence “because”, as Mohammad Sabir, an ice cream vendor, tells us, “he was the one vocal voice against the demolition of Babri Masjid”.

The women here, however, have been questioning the candidates and their supporters on issues that directly affect them. Naseem and Nahida Parveen, who live near Sabji Mandi, rue that many men and children in their area have become addicted to drugs. Increasingly, women have started asking candidates what they propose to do about the rampant drug abuse, because “we earn the money, while the men squander it away on drugs”.

“Our vote will go to the candidate who offers a solution to this problem,” they say.

About The Author

The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

#Lok Sabha #Malerkotla #Sangrur #Sikhs


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