Wednesday, November 10, 2004

RJD strategists work on dividing Dalits

GAYA: Perhaps in order to limit the damage caused by LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan's campaign against the RJD, the RJD strategists are working on a plan to isolate Paswans from other Dalit groups. And for that, a trial has been conducted in the Gurua area of the Gaya district.

On last Sunday, a big congregation of the Musahars, the most deprived among the Dalits, was organised on the Gurua High School premises. The Musahar Mahasammelan was presided over by Raushan Manjhi, vice chairman of the Zila Parishad, and RJD ticket aspirant from the Imamganj reserved assembly seat.

Though, the Mahasammelan was ostensibly convened as a show of strength by the Musahars, having a strong numerical presence in the Gaya district, the deliberations made it clear that it was more an exercise in Paswan bashing to isolate Paswans from other Dalit groups.

Speaker after speaker complained that Paswans have cornered most of the benefits of the Dalit reservation facility and the more deprived among the Dalits, particularly the rat eating Musahars and scavengers, have been short-changed.

What irked the Musahars the most was the perceived tendency among the followers of Ram Vilas Paswan to garner votes in the name of Dalit unity when the candidate belonged to their own caste and indulge in leg pulling if some Musahar had the chance to make it to the assembly or Parliament.

The conveners, including Bishun Deo Manjhi, Jagdeo Manjhi and Biswas Manjhi, repeatedly complained that when Ramji Manjhi, the Musahar candidate of the RJD, was in the race for the Gaya seat, a large number of Paswans, particularly the followers of senior LJP leader Rajesh Kumar, supported the BJP candidate and former IPS official, Balbir Chand, a rank outsider in Gaya district.

Murmurs were also heard at the Musahar rally to delete Paswans from the list of Scheduled Castes as they no longer needed reservations on account of a distinct improvement in their socio-economic stature, thanks mainly to the benefits of reservation. The creamy layer argument is advanced to delist the Paswans.

According to Phool Manjhi of Sherghati: "Asal malai to ihe log khaya hai. Humni to jhuthe badnam hue (the real benefit has been availed by the Paswans. We have been the losers)."

It is yet to be seen how LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan counters the move to isolate his caste men within the large Dalit umbrella.

Source: The Times of India, November 10, 2004

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