AJMER: Voters may be getting polarised on religious lines in many parts of the country, but a community in Rajasthan has Hindus and Muslims in the same family and the main election issue for them is not religion, but water scarcity.
It is not odd in India to find villages with members of both the Hindu and Muslim community living together, but in Ajaysar village -- about 140 km from Jaipur -- in Rajasthan's Ajmer district, one may find members of both the religions in a family.
"This has been our culture since centuries," said Jawahar Singh, a Hindu, whose son, Salahuddin, is a Muslim.
He is among the nearly 10-lakh Cheetah Mehrat community spread over Ajmer, Bhilwara, Pali and Rajsamand districts.
Like most of the voters, this election season, Cheetah Mehrat community is closely monitoring the parties.
Anand said the community is now divided between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"But, our vote will go to the party who solves the problem of water scarcity here," he says.
Descendants of the Chauhan rulers, the community took to Islam about 700 years ago and adopted the three practices of 'dafan', 'khatna' and 'zabiha' (burial, circumcision and eating halal) from the religion.
Their lifestyle -- names, marriage rituals, dressing styles -- is practised as per the belief they follow, Hinduism or Islam.
Talking about the water situation, Mohan said since the water supply has already delayed by two-three days in the season's beginning, people are dependent on buying water tankers.
The girls are often not sent to school during the drought season since they have to go and fill water cans from far off places This election season the community will only vouch for the candidate or party who can solve the problem of water scarcity, he says.
Mohan, who works in an NGO that works for girls' education in the community, told PTI that barring 10-12 families, most people in the village believe in both religions.
It is possible that in the same family, one does 'puja', while the other offers namaz.
There are about 400 Cheetah Mehrat families in the village and they are in the same spirit during any festive season, Mohan said.
He added that a temple and mosque had been erected in the same compound and it is mandatory for a wedding procession to visit both the places.
The bride's family makes all arrangements keeping the customs of both the religions in mind, Mohan says.
He, however, rues that child marriage is still prevalent in the community and girls are married off at a very young age.
Lately, the trend of accepting one religion has been evident in the community, unlike the earlier days where both faiths were followed ardently.
"Many times, we are not given the benefit of the schemes since one member in the family has a Hindu name, while the other has a Muslim name," Anand said.
"We also face difficulty in making ration cards because the officials understand very little about our situation. The community now is becoming aware of its identity since we have suffered a lot because of it," he said.
Congress has fielded Riju Jhunjhunwala against the BJP's Bhagirath Chowdary from Ajmer.
The constituency votes in the fourth phase of the general election on Monday.