In the tiny village of Marora this week, a ceremony was held with all the trappings of a campaign event. Children lined up along the roads with placards of Donald Trump, village elders were dressed in their finest clothes and loud music belted out devotional music and decorative billboards adorned the walls.
It is an odd coincidence, considering the US President’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, that 80 percent of “Trump village’s” residents are Muslim.
Located in Mewat district in the state of Haryana, around 85 kilometers from the capital New Delhi, most of the village’s 2,000 residents seem not to be bothered by the renaming of their home as “Trump village.”
As part of the ceremony, the village celebrated newly built toilets and a vocational training center for women. Many villagers are poor laborers or construction workers and welcome the small improvements the facilities bring.
“What does it matter if the village has a new name?” a village official, Shukat Ali, questioned. “We want development like schools and better roads. We have no objection otherwise,” he told DW.
“I do not care if Trump is a Muslim baiter. All I know is he is against Muslims who cause violence and destroy countries. He is the president of a powerful country,” a villager named Zorauddin told DW.
Only 20 out of 165 houses in the village have a toilet
The idea to rebrand Marora “Trump village” was a promotional concept in connection with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to make villages in India free from open defecation by 2019.
Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of the Indian water and sanitation charity Sulabh International, told DW about how he came up with the idea for Trump village.
“The idea was born when I was in the US recently,” said Pathak. “Trump’s slogan is ‘Make America Great Again’ and our Modi’s credo is ‘Make in India’ so I thought why not make a humble beginning honoring the friendship of the two.”
Pathak and his NGO are well known for their work on sanitation and he is one of the brand ambassadors for Modi’s Clean India Campaign. Sulabh International has also been granted consultative status by the UN Economic and Social Council.
Puneet Ahluwalia, vice-chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee in the US and a member of Trump’s Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee, was also present at the occasion and inaugurated some of the newly built toilets.
“He is the leader of the free world,” Ahluwalia told DW. “This is a great tribute and there are shared ideals between both countries. It will take a while for the name to sink in but it will happen.”
Only 20 out of 165 houses in “Trump village” have toilets. The ultimate objective, organizers said, is to make the village free from open defecation and provide it with complete toilet coverage in the coming months.
What is in a name?
The renaming of the village was complicated last month ahead of PM Modi’s meeting with President Trump in Washington. At the time, the organizers went ahead with rebranding the village but did not obtain permission from the district administration.
Ten days later, local authorities removed the new welcome sign and pulled down the posters, saying the rules for changing a village’s name had not been followed.
But for the latest ceremonial rebranding, the organizers were better prepared. The Trump connection was renewed, especially after the Haryana government, too, announced its rural areas are to be made free of open defecation.
Despite the good intentions of organizers, some of the locals are not happy with the name change.
“The US president is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Naming our village after him will send the wrong signals and not bring us fame or international attention,” Ayub Bhai, a village elder told DW.
Similar sentiments were expressed by college student Abdul Ahmed who said Trump was only keen on having places and institutions named after him.
“Does he even know where Mewat is or for that matter Haryana?” Ahmed asked.
President Trump has a fair share of supporters in India, mostly Hindu nationalists, who feel that he will save the world from Islamic terror. In the run-up to his election last year, many offered prayers and then burst into wild celebrations, and organized rallies in Mumbai and New Delhi following his victory. Even during his election campaign, Trump tried to woo Indian-American voters and released a campaign advertisement in Hindi.