The Muslims of Doshipura, an enclave of Shia weavers in the Sunni dominated Adampur, are the latest “tourist” attraction in Varanasi for their vocal support of Narendra Modi. BJP-friendly Shias comprise around 36,000 of Varanasi’s 3 lakh-Muslim population, Doshipura houses around 7,000 of them.
“We started voting for the BJP when it had a lamp as its symbol (Jan Sangh),” says Sadiq Ali, a middleman who trades in silk fabrics.
BJP caps and scarves are available aplenty in this area of un-plastered houses and narrow lanes, where the power looms provide the background score to every conversation. But over 2,500 looms have fallen silent in Doshipura and its neighbouring Sunni-dominated areas as the trade has become unviable.
Power supply here does not extend beyond eight hours. “Orders do not get completed on time, weavers sit idle, we hope Modi will be able to give us 24-hour power supply the way he gives power to Gujarat’s weavers,” says Ali, who earns Rs 250-300 a day if business is good. The weavers’ monthly income is much lower, between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,500.
Many weavers have taken loans to buy power looms, but are not being able to repay the money for want of work. The increase in the price of silk threads to around Rs 5,000 per kg, is forcing traders to shift to artificial silk saris. These cheaper saris do not get the weavers enough money, and several of them are leaving the trade and taking up the job of labourers.