Few in India had heard about the small village of Bishada in the northern Uttar Pradesh state’s Dadri district until 2015, when a mob of Hindu villagers lynched a 52-year-old Muslim man, Mohammed Akhlaq, on suspicion that he slaughtered a cow. Many Hindus consider the cow to be holy. The news of Akhlaq’s death hit headlines, which made the villagers furious and they attacked and chased away several journalists allegedly for maligning the name of their village. Now that the general elections are underway, journalists once again sought to visit the village, a stronghold of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but faced a similar hostility. The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh recently held a rally near the village and reportedly sought to justify the lynching incident.
However, when we went to Bishada, which local residents call “Modi’s village,” earlier this month for the StoriesAsia election series at The Diplomat, we spoke to the villagers only about their basic needs, which appeared to be lacking. They also seemed to have a sense of betrayal by the BJP, as their lives have improved little over the last five years. Also reflected in their answers was a passive admission that the lack of basic necessities could be behind the violence, that politicians perhaps incited them to create communal tensions.