Villagers of Mathura cannot recount a time when the Braj Chaurasi Kos Yatra did not take place apart from last year.
The yatra is a major pilgrimage as devout Hindus traverse the sacred areas of Mathura, the 12-forest Vrindavan, sacred hill Govardhan and the holy spots along the banks of Yamuna.
The ban on the yatra by the Samajwadi Party last year evoked sharp criticism; Hindu villagers feel the party has become pro-Muslim.
In June 2012, Kosi Kalan village in Mathura had witnessed a Hindu-Muslim riot that left four dead and dozens injured.
The Muzaffarnagar riots followed the ban, and these incidents are impacting moods in this western belt of Uttar Pradesh.
The issues pertaining to the affected communities hold a lot of significance across this belt comprising Mathura, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri that go to polls on April 24. Hindus in Mathura blame SP for being partial to Muslims after the Kosi Kalan flare-up while in Agra, Muslim clerics have asked the community to ensure BJP does not come to power out even if it means voting for SP.
Lack of basic amenities seems to be on the back burner.
“Members of every community should not be stopped from performing religious activities. The SP government is biased and even after the 2012, Hindus did not get any compensation. This will only divide the society,” said Huqum Pal Singh, a resident of Kosi Kalan.
While the angst is expected to help BJP, Muslims in this belt can be the difference between winning and losing.
Of some 400 villages in Mathura, five are dominated by Muslims while the population is mixed in the others.
“Muslims are angry with Congress but will never vote for BJP. We have to choose between the Bahujan Samaj Party and the SP, the latter despite the Muzaffarnagar riots,” said Ameer Ahmad, a resident of Agra.