Better working opportunities and government housing incentives attracted a significant number of people from the lower strata of society of Uttar Pradesh to the City Beautiful from 1995 onwards. Once here, this hard-working community got down to the business of ferrying city residents from their homes to markets in rickshaws. Within no time, almost 50% of 40,000 rickshaws in tricity were being pulled by men from UP.
However, their early days in the city were tough. Many of them faced the barrage of taunts such as ‘Bhaiya’ and ‘Purbia’. So much so that even the senior bureaucrats from UP were being called with such derogatory names in hushed tone. Today, the population of UPites is around 2 lakh in the city.
The people started coming here in late ’80s and the influx was from eastern UP, comprising Gonda, Basti, Gorakpur, Sultanpur Amethi and RaiBareilly. Nearly, 50,000 Muslims have also made Chandigarh their home and are involved in jobs such as barber, ironsmith, building construction work, painters and stitching. Most of the Muslim population comes from western Uttar Pradesh which comprises Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut , Bulandshahr and Bijnor.
Besides, members of the community also happen to work for Panjab University and are also high-ranking officers in the UT administration and police.
In 1997, people from Uttar Pradesh, along with Bihar community, formed the Purvanchal Welfare Association, an organisation which is working actively to protect, preserve, propagate and popularise the history, culture and traditions of the Purvanchal region of UP. Most of them speak fluent Punjabi, but with a different accent.
However, the life led by the well-offs in Chandigarh is not what many from Uttar Pradesh enjoy here, a large part of the community lives in slums and market corridors. Besides, nearly 20,000 people from UP are rickshaw-pullers in the tricity.
Awadhi and Mughlai are the two chief genres of cuisines from Uttar Pradesh, and cooking patterns of the state are similar to those followed in rest of north India. The cuisines consist of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
UP has been greatly influenced by Mughal cooking techniques. The Awadhi cuisine of Uttar Pradesh bears similarities to those of Kashmir and Punjab, and the state is famous for its Nawabi foods (of Lucknow and environs) and use of mutton, paneer, and rich spices, including cardamom and saffron. Its most famous dishes include kebabs, dum biryani and various mutton recipes. The chaat, samosa and pakora, among the most popular snacks in the country, originate from UP.
Raslila is a famous art form dance of Braj region of Uttar Pradesh, which comprises areas in and around Mathura. It is an ancient dance form which belongs to the period of Lord Krishna, who used to perform this dance form with his peer group. Kathak is another popular dance of eastern and central Uttar Pradesh. Their popular festivals are Holi and women celebrate Haritalika Teej, which falls in September.
PNS hahi , secretary, Purvanchal Welfare Association, came to Chandigarh in 1999 and after retiring as the Air force flight engineer he settled in the city. Shahi says, “Initially, our community faced much humiliation as Punjabis used to call us ‘Bhaiya’ and ‘Purbia’, but now it is not much as we are more in number. Most of the people who come from eastern Uttar Pradesh believe that the UT administration will rehabilitate them and also menial work is easily available in the tricity.”
Association’s senior vicepresident Ujjawal Kumar, who works as a supervisor in the Chandigarh Housing Board came to Chandigarh in 1991. He says, “Not only people from low strata faced the humiliation, but also some senior officials of the UT from the state faced it. The word ‘Bhaiya’ and ‘Purbia’ — a slang word for those from Bihar — is an insult for the community and shows an ugly, discriminatory side of City Beautiful.”
Dr Vandana Tiwari, lecturer in music department at Post Graduate Government College for Girls, Sector 11, Chandigarh, said, “Chandigarh is a very beautiful city, but we do face some problems as a few people are biased against people from UP. We have no choice to confront these ill-informed miscreants.”