As Netas Ride Donkey Narrative, UP Potters Have Been Losing Theirs
Hidayat Ali sits outside his house in Lucknow. (Picture Courtesy: Eram Agha/News18)
Lucknow: “Donkeys are dying and politicians are weaving their campaigns around it?” said Hidayat Ali, a Kasgar or a Muslim Prajapati in Lucknow’s Malhor village, here many potters have been living off the traditional work of pottery. He has lost his donkeys to a “mysterious disease” that even the government doctor is not able to cure or fathom out.
There were many at home but now he is taking care of only two – one is mother other is its progeny. “The donkeys are falling ill and dying. Today they are priced so high that we cannot buy so frequently. I prefer to keep their number low,” he said.
His neighbor took to cycle to ferry mud from the fields and take the completed pots to the markets in time of festivities. But as the potters or prajapatis are jettisoning donkeys the politicians seem to be riding on it for political gains. The potters depend on the donkey for their work.
At one of his election rallies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had hit back at UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav for his “donkey” remark. Modi said, “I take inspiration from the donkey because I work for people day and night... donkeys are loyal to their master.” He was responding to what UP CM had said regarding Amitabh Bachchan’s advertisement for Gujarat’s Wild Ass Sanctuary.
Modi also said, "It works even if it is ill, hungry or tired and completes the task.” The Kasgars are not clued in on how politicians are raising the name of donkeys to win votes, “Pehle gadha banao phir gadhe ki rajneeti karo,” said Zakir Ali another potter in the village.
On hearing about the donkey campaign in Uttar Pradesh for the 2017 elections, he added, “Notebandi, what was that? An attempt to make us feel like a donkey. Only rich were safe but poor died.”
He had 6 donkeys during the pottery heydays but now he has none. “My donkeys died of some illness, we showed him to the doctor but all he did was give prescription. So much money was spent on its tablets still it died.”
There were nights when the donkey cried in pain and Ali would wake up making a syrup of eggs, peppers and rock salt. When it did not recover he visited the doctor again, “Despite the medicines my donkeys died and now I don’t have the courage to buy another one.”
His sentiment was echoed by Muley Miyan, a 70 year old potter. He said, “I have lost 10 of my donkeys. Now they are so expensive I cannot buy after every death.” Today the donkeys cost around Rs 30,000 and if they fall ill the owners spend Rs 1000 on glucose and Rs 200 on tablets. “Food has become expensive too. One quintal of fodder costs Rs 1500 and runs only for 1 week. Buying kandas is expensive, we pay Rs 2,200,” he added.
Mohd Sagheer is troubled too, “Neither there are donkeys left nor mitti. The ground that was fertile for us has been acquired by the government so we went to other villages to get mud but the pradhans have become hostile to our act of fetching mud from their village.”
There are 40 families of Kasgars in this village – they wait for festivals to get their products sold. The problem the potters face is also of “use of plastic cups," one of them said, "the government should do something to increase the use of kulhads instead of talking about donkeys."
"Donkeys are pained, and so are we. We don’t know what kind of fever is killing them. Ab janwar bol nahi sakta … kya karein?” said Inayat Ali in Malhor.
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