Madhepura: In the Bastion of Mandal, the Author of Mandal Commission Report, Social Justice a Distant Dream for Dalits

Dalits living in the ancestral village of B P Mandal, whose vision gave rise to various socialist leaders like Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav, have not not benefited from development.
Madhepura: In the Bastion of Mandal, the Author of Mandal Commission Report, Social Justice a Distant Dream for Dalits

Madhepura (Bihar): Kutcha houses and huts with tin roofs are a common sight in Madhepura’s Murho — a bastion of Mandal politics. While Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) President Nitish Kumar rides on the state’s caste survey report published last year and Rahul Gandhi promises a nationwide caste census as part of the Congress plank in the Lok Sabha elections, it seems that development has eschewed the village of former Chief Minister Bindheshwari Prasad Mandal, who chaired the Mandal Commission.

A section of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) was mobilised by the commission’s report — which also started a discussion on policies pertaining to marginalized and underrepresented groups in Indian politics.

Mandal was a leading proponent of social justice politics in the nation and his ideas gave rise to many socialist politicians, such as Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar and late Mulayam Singh Yadav — who founded the Samajwadi Party (SP). The memorial of the socialist leader and his ancestral home are two of the rare concrete buildings in Murho village.

Less than 100 meters from the memorial lies Musahar Tola where descendants of Kirai Musahar, a noted socialist and the first MP from the area, reside in a hut with its walls coated with mud.

Sitting in front of his house, Umesh Rishidev, one of the grandsons of Musahar, said both Nitish and Lalu caused irreparable damage to the social justice movement by appeasing their own castes. “None of the two leaders benefited the Dalits — who are still marginalised and least fortunate,” he told The Mooknayak.

“See yourself the condition of Mahadalits in this village. None of them have a pucca house despite all the chatter about them. Look at our house. Have you ever seen this type of home of an MP?” he said.

Musahar, a member of the Mahadalit community, was elected as an MP in 1952 in the first general election of independent India from the Bhagalpur Lok Sabha seat, which also included Madhepura at that time, on the Socialist Party’s ticket.

Mandal won the 1967 elections as a candidate of the Samyukta Socialist Party (SSP) from Madhepura parliamentary constituency, which was carved out of Bhagalpur. He also served as the seventh chief minister of Bihar in 1968 but resigned after 30 days.

Mandal, a Yadav by caste, subsequently chaired the Second Backward Classes Commission (popularly known as mandal Commission) and authored its groundbreaking report (1978–1980), which suggested quotas for the OBCs in government jobs.

When the V P Singh government implemented the Mandal panel recommendation in 1990, powerful regional parties in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh emerged.

For many Murho locals, the rich history of social justice that began in their village and spread to other places seems to have lost much of its significance as Madhepura, a Yadav-dominated seat, heads to the polls on May 7 in the third phase of ongoing elections. Dinesh Chandra Yadav of the ruling JD(U) is contesting against Kumar Chandradeep of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) among others. He is also a Yadav by caste.

Lalu’s saying — “Rome Pope ka, Madhepura Gope ka” [Rome is of the Pope, Madhepura belongs to the Gope (Yadavs)]” — so far had stood the test of time, though Dinesh defeated RJD’s Sharad Yadav by more than 3 lakh votes. In the sixteen elections and bypolls held since the creation of the Madhepura Lok Sabha constituency in 1967, only Yadav candidates have won the seat.

Yadavs make up the majority of the village’s population; other communities include Mahadalits and a few other OBC groups like Pachpania and Kurmi.

Digambar is in his mid twenties and prefers to go by his first name only, though he is a Yadav by caste. He is unhappy with all political parties as, according to him, people’s issues never become a poll plank.

He is preparing for railways, but there are few recruitments. He does odd jobs to earn a living.

“While every party talks about social justice, only economic empowerment would ensure real social justice. Without education and economic upliftment, no social justice can be accomplished. When one man in a family finds a job, the whole family prospers,” he said.

But unfortunately, he said, elections are fought by getting the caste equations right and in the name of religion.

An ardent RJD supporter and Mandal’s grandnephew, Anand Mandal tries to put things in perspective.

“Social justice is more than just a philosophy. It is a movement. Regretfully, those who emerged from this movement involved themselves in power struggles or family promotion. However, socialism will endure as long as there is socioeconomic inequality,” he claimed.

Residents claimed they have not seen progress in the hamlet for years, and no politician ever visits the area. “You will find water taps in almost every household. Water pipelines have been installed under the Jal Nal Yojna. But the water is not fit for drinking. The Pradahan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY — a housing scheme of the Centre) has not even made it here,” he complained.

If Dinesh is a sitting MP and has a strong team on ground, Chandradeep is no ordinary candidate. Apart from being the son of noted educationist and former MP Ramendra Kumar Ravi, he has his own political clout. And therefore, the stage is set for a fierce battle between the two.

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