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These elections are crucial to protect community rights and pluralism, say Muslim voters in Aligarh

Campaigning in Aligarh is subdued and the major parties are concentrating on their main bases of support. Within the Muslim community, opinions on this Lok Sabha election seem to vary, with some seeing it as crucial for pluralism in India, while others feel neglected by political parties.

Muslims form a sizeable community in the Aligarh parliamentary constituency. According to the 2011 census, Islam is the second most popular religion in the city of Aligarh, a lock-making hub in western Uttar Pradesh, where more than 40% of people follow the religion.

“For me, these elections are about securing the Constitution, which gives me and everyone else in this country the right to equality,” said Shadab Khan, a 45-year-old driver at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

Many others in Aligarh’s Muslim community echoed his views.

Syed Aamir, a worker at a local eatery in the city’s Shamshad Market, described these elections as a matter of survival for pluralism in India.

“If we don’t vote now, we may lose this opportunity forever,” Mr Aamir said.

There is also a sense of disillusionment among some Muslim voters, such as Mohammad Shiraz from the Civil Lines region of Aligarh, who feel overlooked by the political parties.

“The ruling party does not need our vote and the opposition assumes we have no choice but to vote for them. That is why even though the elections are just a few days away, not a single party worker has approached us, let alone candidates.” Mr Shiraz said, highlighting a perceived lack of involvement from political actors.

Amid all this, the election campaign in Aligarh remains relatively subdued, with candidates from major parties such as the BJP and the Samajwadi Party (SP) focusing heavily on specific demographic groups.

Incumbent BJP MP Satish Gautam is prioritizing reaching out to the trading community, a traditional base of support for his party, while the SP is focusing on mobilizing support from Jat villages.

“Our alliance is fighting for Hindu-Muslim unity in Aligarh, that goes without saying. But just like with exams, you concentrate more on difficult topics. We do the same, but we carry the well-being of the Muslim community in our hearts.” said a Samajwadi Party official PTI.

Mohammad Sajjad, a professor at AMU’s history department, that minority voters often feel redundant in the current atmosphere of “majoritarian consolidation.” He believed that issues such as economic inequality and religious pluralism have caused the overshadowing.

“As majority consolidation has been observed for many years, the question is no longer about Muslim votes. The issue is whether Hindu voters should lean towards Hindutva or a pluralistic and tolerant Hinduism. Or they will vote based on economic issues such as poverty, unemployment, economic inequality or solely on religious supremacism,” he said PTI.

“This decision will ultimately be made by the majority community; the minority of 10-12% does not have such a specific interest. This is something that the Hindus have to decide,” Mr. Sajjad added.

AMU, one of India’s largest residential universities, plays a central role in this story.

According to academic experts like Dr. Iftekhar Ahmad Ansari, the institute embodies India’s secular and pluralistic ethos, but also faces the challenge of adapting to evolving democratic and societal demands.

“Muslims have never voted as a conservative bloc as they are labeled. They did not vote en masse… but they voted for those who can best preserve and nurture the culture they grew up in, and that is the plural culture,” Mr Ansari said.

“Even at AMU, the perception of Muslims that they have a conservative mentality or that they have a herd mentality is not the fact here… they have been very open-minded,” the associate professor at the department of political science told. PTI.

Professor Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi also expressed similar views and said there is not a single Muslim here who can be termed “anti-national”.

“The Muslims here would talk about their rights and doing that doesn’t make you anti-national,” he said.

Aligarh goes to the polls in the second phase of elections on April 26. Khair, Baroli, Atroli, Kol and Aligarh town are assembly segments in Aligarh parliamentary constituency.

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