(Photos: Empty streets outside the Stupa gate. Chai shop owners demonstrating with banner reading, “FOOTPATH SHOPKEEPERS UNION – DEMONSTRATION FOR INDEFINITE PERIOD FROM 18-10-2007 AGAINST OUR DISPLACEMENT.”)
As of November 5, 2007, Bodhgaya is undergoing some major changes. The numerous chai wallas that used to line the road to the Stupa gate are gone. It’s absence is marked. Local rickshaw drivers and pilgrims alike are no longer seen in respite with chai in hand. After several circumambulations, one pines for it near the Stupa.
On a larger scale around the chowk, all vendors, including sweet shops, bodhi bead stalls and small makeshift restaurants leading to the back road toward the Tibetan Refugee Market have also been removed. One would expect to see a ghost town, but somehow, Bodhgaya seems to absorb this silence along with the hum of commerce.
Heard from a local source, a main chai and sweet shop vendor, a local politician, had been lobbying to keep the small shops operating for years without interference from the National government until this year. The Indian Supreme Court ruled against the local ordinance and enforced a crack down against illegal building on government land. Almost all chai wallas around the Stupa were affected.
(Photo: Renegade chai maker in front of the Stupa.)