The Dalits in Benipur village rejoice if Mayawati wins and the Yadavs celebrate if Mulayam Singh Yadav does.
Benipur, by the way, is not in Uttar Pradesh. It’s in southern Nepal, close to the Indian state. If Mayawati and Mulayam extended their election battle beyond the border each would happily find many voters.
“If Mayawati wins, Dalits take pride. When Yadav wins, we celebrate,” says Nandlal Yadav of Benipur, who keeps track of Indian politics.
Southern Nepal, comprising the Terai region, has many families with names like Shukla, Yadav and Vishwakarma. And they don’t want a fence on the border — a suggestion to tighten security.
The border divides many families, including Nandlal’s. He goes back and forth every day.
“My father Om Prakash lives in Nautanva, India. I live in Bhairwan, Nepal. Whenever the two governments impose restrictions on our movement, I would feel I am in jail,” he says.
The border is defined in urban areas but in villages, the No Man’s Land is hard to spot.
Like their love for all matters Indian, the Terai people love Tendulkar. “Whenever Sachin does badly, we don’t eat for a day,” says Nidhi Lal, who has written a Bhojpuri song on the ongoing Madhesi movement that seeks a separate state.
“I have a home here and I have a home in Kanpur, too. We took Nepal citizenship to retain our business and we have Indian citizenship also,” said Pradip Shukla of Jamuna village in Nepalganj. The Shuklas also vote in on both sides of the border.
And if votes cross the border, so do love and marriage.
Harvinder and his twin brother own a shop in Sunauli, which is on the Indian side. But the brothers secretly married Nepali girls over a decade ago. “We bought a house in Bhutval, 25 km inside the Nepal border and visited them every weekend,” said Harvinder. “This continued for eight years. We had children.” Now, the family has moved here.
In Bulhariya village on the Indian side, there is a madarsa and a school nearby. It gets students from both sides. “We buy groceries from India and get students from both the countries,” said Akbar Faizi, the principal of the Muftahul-Uloom Salfia Madarsa.
How does it matter, if education too crosses the border.