Chandaur village, Banda district, Uttar Pradesh: Almost all the 4,500 residents of Chandaur, a small village in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh, are gathered in front of the primary school to discuss the assembly elections in the state, but within minutes it turns into a full-fledged protest. The villagers are angry with the lotus, the hand, the cycle, the elephant and every other symbol that represents a political party. None, they say, have done any work for them. The sitting MLA here, is from the Bahujan Samaj Party.
One by one, villagers take the microphone, their voices filled with anguish and anger at an electoral process which they feel merely exploits their vote. Their message now - Chandaur will not vote.
Anand Kumar, a young daily wager says for years young men in this village have struggled to get an education. When they do get an education, they don't get jobs. Like Shiv Bodhan, who is in his thirties and has a Masters degree in Arts but is unemployed. "What's the point of our degrees when to get jobs you need to have money to bribe people? Politicians tell us they will focus on the youth but our ears have tired of listening to these lies," Bodhan says, adding, "We don't have a job, they don't have a vote."
Malkhan Lal, who works on farms and as labour, thrusts a sheaf of papers at us to show how many court cases are pending here. "We're from a poor village in Bundelkhand, so no judge, no lawyer is interested in us or our cases. Whether it is about land or about the identification required for ration cards, we have been fighting just to get our basic entitlements. Yet each elections, like mules we would go to vote. No more."
Years of drought have pushed the people of Chandaur into desperate poverty and helplessness. 70-year-old Gujaratiya says she can't vote for people who don't care whether she lives or dies. "I have two children who are waiting to be married but who can think of marriage when we go hungry for days." Every election, Gujaratiya says, she "would obediently go to vote," but now believes that "This democracy is for rich people not us."
Village pradhan Ramchandar, who is in his fifties, says it is ironic that Chandaur's election boycott has drawn the attention of local politicians and journalists, but its hardships never did. "I am with my people on this. All 4,500 of us will not vote in these elections," he says.
Unlike other villages, which have announced a boycott of elections and later turned up to vote, Ramchandar says, "It will not happen here."
(This story has been reported by Meera, Kavita from Khabar Lahariya, written by Radhika Bordia)