Guest post by MONOBINA GUPTA
The narrow streets of Goduliya Chowk were bursting at the seams yesterday. It was the time of the famous Varanasi aarti at the ghats of the Ganga, a time when the crowd multiplies by several hundreds of people. Narendra Modi was preparing to head out on his triumphant road show through this area, choc-a-bloc full. The BJP’s activists were in a frenzied trance – waving saffron flags, flaunting Modi caps (a tawdry imitation of the original AAP trademark), dancing and chanting: Modi, Modi. As a person with no love lost for Modi, I responded to the exultant mood with some apprehension. My thoughts were straying to the nukkad sabha of the AAP that I attended last evening when a group of 20 young and old AAP volunteers had gone around campaigning for Medha Patkar’s meeting. I found myself thinking about the evening a couple of days ago when I stood with Anand Patwardhan and some activists who were distributing leaflets right there at Goduliya Chowk, and a group of BJP men came surrounded us. I thought about another night spent at Kabir Math Chowk after watching the Dastangoi performance – when a group of young men from Bangalore and Maharashtra were confronted by BJP supporters. I was worried about their safety standing amidst a crowd which appeared dangerous in its swaggering triumph. Yesterday, with Modi’s cavalcade approaching, frictions were reaching fever pitch – encounters one could not possibly see on the images on TV at home.
Standing there amidst the crowd, I spotted an elderly Sikh gentleman walking through the throng of people wearing his AAP topi. Suddenly a roar went up, as Modi sympathisers lunged after him shouting ‘pagal, pagal’ (mad/mad). A little distance ahead I saw another man wearing the AAP cap. The crowd spotted him too, and ran after them both, gesticulating, heckling. As I start walking quickly towards the men I saw them, seemingly unperturbed, walk right through the charging hoard, not a sign of nervousness about their gait. They were walking the confident walk of men who know no fear. Continue reading BJP’s Campaign of Intimidation – A Report from Banaras: Monobina Gupta