Voting on but Dalits struggle for basics

Voting on but Dalits struggle for basics

In scores of mahadalit tolas of Magadh, life is back to basics as Magadh region goes to polls in the first phase on Saturday. But the messaging of national security seems to have hammered home. So is the caste pride.

“Pakistan Murdabad,” shouts five-year-old Shravan Kumar at Gehlore, where Mountain Man Dashrath Manjhi’s Samadhi is located, a must visit for the Mushhar (mouse catcher) community. Just 10 kilometres away is Lohjara basti, where 90 Mushar (mouse catcher) families living in the foothill, water is a luxury as pumps have gone dry with water table drastically down.

While a loosely planted iron board screams Adarsh Gram (ideal village), Sunita Devi complaints, “leave aside livelihood even water is a rare commodity. There is only one boring well and every morning and evening there is a big fight over water. The bigger is the row, the bigger is the fight.” Mithilesh Manjhi says only half of the villagers have got Indira Awas.

The foothill, which is dotted with Mushar villages and tolas, had been once the hotbed of Naxal activities where Maoists used to observe martyrs day in past.  Now, there is pitch-road in front of the tolas and CM Nitish Kumar gets accolades for it. But no doubt Sushashan (good governance) has been slow to come in the Mahadalit tolas of Bihar and hence when the nation will cast its vote on Thursday, thousands of Dalit youths in Magadh will not be able to use their right to franchise, sweating out in brick kilns or building construction work in far off metros. 12-year-old Kiran in Nawada Bhuian toli says she wants to study but parents do not send her to school. Sukan Manjhi argues, “parents have no option. They have to send small kids to work in farms of others. Relatively elder ones have left homes to the town or metros in search of livelihood.”

With the state ranking poor on the industrial map, joblessness is rampant across the state, more so among the underprivileged sections.

Ironically Gaya is one of the four Parliamentary seats that go to polls on Thursday is a reserved Parliamentary constituency since 1967 and has been represented mostly by members of Mushar community including a former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who contested the Parliamentary seats thrice on three different party symbols.

Well do the Mushars really eat mouse or it is just a myth? An apparently irritated Mohan Chaudhary blurts out “what is wrong in it. The poor do. We used to dig ratholes, chased and caught them and then there was a feast. What to do? This year also there is no rain. Paddy crop is destroyed.”

He says that while in 2014 they had voted for Narendra Modi, “there is nothing clear this time.” Moreover "sab apne hi log hain (candidates are from our own community). The dynamics plays out in the same fashion elsewhere in Bihar.