PALIGUNJ – Bihar is one of the first states which further categorize the Dalit community and they are differentiated by the name of Mahadalits. State Mahadalit Commission constituted in 2007 defines its purpose as following.
- Identify the castes within Scheduled Castes who lagged behind in the development process.
- To study educational and social status and suggest measures for upliftment of these castes.
- To recommend actions for initiating measures for their educational and social upliftment together with ways for their employment.
- Any other subjects State Govt. entrusts the Commission.
So, Mahadalit was further categorized to improve the conditions of the most backward sections of the society. It consists of 23 Dalit castes out of total 24. But the condition of these castes remains the same. It is evident from a fact where 136 Musahar families became victims of ‘Silent Displacement’, leading their lives amid full of miseries. (Earlier, 70 families of same Musahar caste were displaced mutely in Masaurhi block, was reported in newzfirst.com by this correspondent). Evacuated from their lands, their children have been facing the stigma of untouchability at schools, are not able to find anyone from administration to hear their grievance.
The village Mouri of Paliganj block is situated nearly about 80 km from state capital Patna. The village is dominated by upper castes, mainly, Bhumiar caste. The south of this village has an abandoned colony, developed under Indira Awas Yojana, a decade ago. Pointing out at the houses without doors and windows, and landscape with full of unwanted bush and shrubs, Vijay Bharti, who works for an NGO said ‘It was the home of 136 Musahar families’.
Where all these family have gone?
A political activist from Patna, Shyam Kunal, showed the list of 136 families and the list of 41 villages spread across 5 districts of the state, where all these families have been scattered.
Nearly, fifty families have been taking shelter at village, Barah Mile, which is located at 3 km away from Mouri. Sanjay Manjhi, 33 yrs, Govt teacher, says ‘we want to return to our homes but no one helps us to settle there. Without the intervention of Administration it would not be possible to do so. We staged week long dharna at SDO office, Paligunj but nothing happened. We couldn’t locate where the problem is.’
Manoj Manjhi, 40 yrs, another victim villager, ‘Many of our relatives migrated to other districts. We are still gripped by the fear. Four years back, we tried to return. As we reached near the village, we started hearing the sound of firing. Few Riflemen threatened us to go back otherwise face dire consequences’
Havildar Manjhi, 60 yrs old man says, ‘we didn’t lose only our houses and place of birth but even our right to vote, education and a sense of belongingness too’
Reason for displacement:
In November, 2004, a Musahar Siya Ram Manjhi, a servant at home of an upper caste man was killed by Ranveer Sena, a private army of Upper caste. After a month, on 29th of December, People’s War Group took the revenge of Siyaram Manjhi’s assassination by killing four villagers, allegedly Ranveer Sena men. In fear of retaliation, all the Musahar left the village.
In 2007, Musahars tried to return to their homes but they were again threatened by the villagers and had to pull back from the move. Kameshwar Sharma, villager of Mouri, said ‘I heard that group of youths fired in air to threaten them. So they returned’
Responses from administration & Mahadalit commission
In several instances administration’s slackness was exposed. Earlier, SDO had consulted the villagers for their re-settlement. The result was nothing. Present Sub Divisional Officer, Santosh Kumar, has no interest towards solving this issue and has remained calm.
Mahadalit Commission’s secretary, Ram Chander Ram, took notice and asked DM and SP to furnish report on the issue. He says ‘It is a matter of grave concern. We will sure look into it. If the administration report is not satisfying, I would visit the place’
Obstacles in resettlement:
Both groups of the village do suspect each other. They think that the re-settlement would lead to revival of the earlier tension.
‘The degree of tension prevailed seven years back was very high. Now, it is moderate’ says Kameshwar Sharma, a landlord of the Mouri Village. He said that villagers are now divided over their re-settlement. Few years back, there was no other view. ‘Last year when local administration had consulted us over re-settlement, we advised them it could be possible only, if a Police out-post is established here. It is necessary to instill a faith in both communities which had eroded’ he added.
Sanjay Master said administration behaves indifferently, saying ‘Who is stopping you to re-settle there? If anyone dares to stop you then come to us’
Larger issues: Untouchability, deprived from right to vote
Pintu Kr Manjhi, 13 yrs old resident of Barah Mile, is studying at Govt School, Rajkiye Utkramit Madhya Vidyalya. School is located at Pariyari village, about 2 km away from Barah mile. He is not allowed to sit along with upper caste students during lunch. He has to sit separately, along with their own caste group students. He is not even allowed to drink water from hand pump.
Sambhu Manjhi, a teacher of this school is always being threatened by the villagers to get out of this school. Sometime he gets life threats too. He says ‘an upper caste Mathura Pd. of Pariyari village always takes a dig at my caste. He becomes more belligerent when I take notice of any upper caste student for their mistakes. He has strong objection over a Schedule Caste which get an opportunity to teach upper caste children’
Mathura Pd was unavailable to comment. But the few villagers of Pariyari, find nothing wrong in his remarks.
In recently concluded Panchayat Election, these people of Musahar community didn’t cast their votes. Tough they possess voter’s ID card; their votes were casted by the people of upper castes of the Mouri Village.