Women, carrying their children in slings, cast their votes at Sithio Middle School in Ranchi on Thursday. (Gautam Dey)
The sons are in jail, dead or absconding, suspected to be behind the only serial blasts that BJP’s prime ministerial pick Narendra Modi faced in the course of his nationwide poll rallies in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan on October 27, 2013.
But the families — of jailed Imtiyaz and his minor nephew and friend who are absconding, and the deceased Tarique — are rooted to their village, running homes, farms or petty businesses. Private grief, police grilling and public shame of being dubbed a ‘village of hardliners’ apart, it was voting time on Thursday for Sithio in Namkum block, 6.5km off state police headquarters in Ranchi’s Dhurwa.
The village, under Ranchi Lok Sabha seat, has eight booths.
Around 11am, The Telegraph team visited booth No. 232 at Sithio Middle School, with voters that include family members of three suspects — the arrested Imtiyaz, now undergoing grilling by the NIA, and his minor nephew and young protégé Nauman, both on the run.
Of the 734 names on the voter list, 265 had polled till 11am, of which 100 were women, most carrying their children with them on their backs on slings made of bed sheets.
Among those who turned up for polling early included Sultan Ansari, Nauman’s father. “Vote hum har bar dete hain. Chahte hain samaj ke soch mein badlav aaye (I vote every time. I want to change social thought),” he said, but parried a query on his absconding son.
“Chodiye un baton ko (leave aside those topics),” he said. He did not allow his photograph to be clicked. “Kya karenge photo le kar, humari badnami hogi (what you will do taking photograph, I will just be defamed),” he said, cycling off.
Kalimuddin Ansari, the septuagenarian father of Imtiyaz, was at home around 11.30am, just a kilometre from the booth.
“Ulta bela mein jayenge, abhi dhoop hai. Vote to dena hai. Vote nahin denge to samay kaise badlega (I will vote in the second half. It is too hot now. If I don’t vote how will change come),” he said, showing his voter slip provided by booth level officers. His elderly wife only said: “Blood pressure badha hai (I have high blood pressure).”
At the adjacent booth No. 231 in the same school building, around 11am, 200 of 553 voters exercised their franchise and around 50 were standing in the queue. It included 108 men and 92 women belonging to tribal and Muslim communities.
One kilometre off, at booth No. 230 at Rajkiya Urdu Balika Prathamik Vidyalaya, family members of the deceased suspect Tarique voted but desisted from talking to the media. Around 11.15am, 231 out of 484 voters had exercised their franchise. Some 10 were standing in queue.
About 1.5km away at booth No. 229, around 11.35am, 312 out of 824 people had voted. Octogenarian Charia Baxla sat beside the queue. Asked who had brought her to the booth, she said: “Ekle aai hee, pota man ni lanlain (I have come alone. Grandsons did not bring me).”
Like every other mohalla, pushcarts and small stalls selling spicy boiled gram, peanuts and golgappa — which many people call gupchup here — did brisk business. Many sellers also sported black ink on their fingers as they sold snacks to voters.