PATNA/GAYA: One mistake the Poll Pundits claiming domain knowledge of the Bihar politics tend to make again and again is to underestimate the IQ level of the Mahadalits and attributing herd mentality to the most disadvantaged group.
A few days back, a Delhi journalist visiting Imamganj area of Gaya district, a Mushar stronghold was stunned by the response of a young Mushar woman. Asked what she expected from the politicians, the woman, to the shocked surprise of the scribe said ‘ kuchho nahin, hum ko manushya ghoshit kiya jaye’ (nothing except our acceptance as human beings).
The woman went on to complain that more than poverty, lack of dignity hurt her. People may attribute the demand to be accepted as human beings to the Maoist influence as the naxals have been very active in the area and they have, for decades been telling the marginalised groups that the system offers little to them. It may be true as well. But, for the young woman hailing from HAM leader Jitan Ram Manjhi’s caste Manjhi’s elevation did not mean much.
Several years back, a Mahadalit resident of Charoba village near Gaya Airport did not feel offended, when the then CM Lalu hit him with a police baton for not sending his child to the school and threatened him with jail if he (Mahadalit) continued to neglect his child’s education. Soon after getting hit by the then CM, the Mahadalit told this scribe that getting beaten was not something new to him.
But for the first time, someone hit him for ‘Hamar Bhalai’ (my good) reasoned the man. It was an eye opener for this correspondent, who, before talking to the victim of Lalu baton, was under the impression that the poor Dalit would have been very angry with Lalu for being publicly humiliated.
The most common mistake made by political analysts is to judge the psychology of the under privileged by their own(analyst’s) parameters and value systems. Kamdeo Manjhi, of Konch area of Gaya district does not feel elated by the elevation of Jitan Ram Manjhi. In Gaya for some work, the villager in his sixties, working in other people’s field and doing odd jobs, said that symbolic things like his casteman getting the top job does not mean much.
‘U to naam ke Bhuiyan he’ (he is a Mushar in name only). He (Jitan Manjhi) has not visited our hutments. He is a big man. He mixes with ‘Bara Log’ and ordinary souls like him (Kamdeo Manjhi) do not matter in the ex CM’s scheme of things.
Whoever gets things like Indira Awas, old age pension, homestead land etc is my man even if he does not belong to my caste. For him, his own poverty was more important than Manjhi power. ‘Jaat ka Dushman Jaate hota hai’ (the enemy is within the caste), was how the Konch villager summed up things. ‘ Aadmi Janam se nahin karam se achchha bura hota hai’ (you are what you do), said Kamdeo Manjhi.
All this means that neither of the two major formations can afford to take Mahadalits for granted. They will have to earn the goodwill and earn it the hard way.