What has Pakistan got to do with Bihar elections? Nothing really, unless it is in Bihar itself. Perhaps it was someone’s bizarre sense of humour that gave this village in Srinagar block of Purnia district its name. Or, it was someone who genuinely wanted to preserve a significant slice of history in public memory forever.
Pakistan, the village with a population of 300, does not have a single mosque. It does not have a single Muslim resident either. The residents here are Santhals, a tribal group. The village, then in Islampur district of Bengal, was named ‘Pakistan’ in the memory of the Muslim residents who migrated in 1947 to what was then called East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Before leaving, the Muslims of the village had handed over their property to Hindus of the neighbouring areas.
More than half a century on, life has not changed significantly in the village despite several changes in the political dispensation in the state. The villagers remain poor and the literacy rate here is abysmal 31.51 percent. In terms of connectivity and other amenities the story here is similar to the rest of ruralBihar. Roads are nearly non-existent as are electricity, clean water, a health centre and schools.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the residents here had voted for Narendra Modi. “We supported Modi in the previous election because, we thought, he is the man who could bring change to our lives. We voted in his favour because we wanted a prime minister who can take on our enemy Pakistan, which creates unrest in our country,” Ghuter Murmur (67) told Firstpost.
This time around they are a bit disillusioned. “If the candidates contesting from here come to the village, listen to our problems and assure us solutions, then only we will decide whom to vote for. Otherwise, we would boycott the polls. What’s the point going to the polling booth?” he added. The village has around 175 voters.
Describing their problems Guru Besra said their children are willing to study but they do not have resources. Fifteen-year-old Desika Hasda, who is a standard 5 drop out, is the only educated person in the village. She can read and write Hindi. Whenever something big happens in the town, state and the country, people go and buy newspapers and come to her. She reads the news and explains it to them.
Hospital or primary health centre is their biggest problem. “If anyone of us falls ill at night, we have to wait till morning to take him or her to a hospital in town. And that too is extremely difficult because there is no road and means of communication,” he said.
Agriculture is the main source of income here. “We have ancestral land. We produce paddy, wheat and maize. Keeping a part of the total agricultural produce as per requirement, we sell the rest to earn money. This is the only source of income we have,” said Suphal Hasda (70).
Asked whether they get any assistance from the government in farming, another villager, Jaddu Tudu, 43, intervened and replied angrily, “We get nothing from the government. We buy seeds and fertilizers from the market which should ideally be given by block either free of cost or at subsidised rate. Four-five persons put together their money and collectively get installed pumping sets for irrigation. Sometimes it becomes difficult for us to do farming because everything needs money and we have only one source of income i.e. agriculture. We are not big landlords. Everyone here owns around five-six bighas (a unit for measuring the area of a piece of land, 1 bigha=0.4 acre) of land. Since everything is costly, we save a little amount of money which we spend to meet the requirements of our daily lives, keeping a part of it for next round of crops,” he described.