How feudalism has seeped into every pore of the society even in Bihar’s capital city Patna is evident by the feudal attack on the Ambedkar hostel at Saidpur on 29 January. The aggressiveness of the feudal elements seems to be a direct function of the attempt of the Dalit community to empower itself.
The feudal students of Saidpur hostel attacked the Dalit Ambedkar hostel. Bombs were hurled and bullets were fired. Dalit students were mercilessly thrashed. The assailants raised slogans hailing the casteist Ranvir Sena and the murdered Brahmeshwar Mukhiya. All the Saidpur hostelites belonged to a particular ‘Savarna’ caste of Bihar – the Bhumihars.
The immediate provocation for the incident was the dispute over power supply. The Saidpur and Ambedkar hostels get power supply from the same grid. Even here there is discrimination. Dharmendra Kumar, who lives in the Ambedkar hostel said, “Initially, there was common connection for both the hostels. Subsequently, the connections were separated. While power was supplied to Saidpur hostel uninterruptedly, Ambedkar hostel was subjected to load shedding. The pressure mounted by the Saidpur inmates is partially responsible for this state of affairs. But the power outfit’s employees also discriminate against us. The same happens regarding water supply. The employees concerned act according to their whims. We get water only for two hours each in the mornings and evenings.”
According to sources, on the evening of 29 January, two to three students of Ambedkar hostel came out to find out why power supply to the hostel had been disrupted. A group of feudal students of Saidpur hostel, who was passing by, attacked the Dalit students. They ran for their lives. One Dalit student Ravi was caught by the Bhumihar students. He was badly beaten and his skull was broken. When the students of Ambedkar hostel opposed this wanton violence, the 20-25 assailants went back to their hostel to summon their friends. After that, about 100-150 students attacked the Dalit hostel amidst slogans of ‘Ranvir Sena Zindabad’. They were also hurling casteist abuses. So aggressive were the Saidpur students that they even attacked and injured the police who reached the spot on receiving information. After an enquiry, five students of Saidpur hostel – Atul Shekhar, Ashutosh Kumar, Ajit Kumar, Shishuranjan Kumar and Nripendra Kumar – were arrested and sent to jail.
Ambedkar hostel inmate Pradhan Amit Kumar said, “This time, the administration acted promptly and took action because they had attacked the police personnel. But the big fish always manage to protect themselves. Eleven persons were arrested but action was taken only against five. The rest were let off”.
Most of the Dalit hostels in Patna are in dire straits. For the last decade-and-a-half, they are without wardens and lack basic facilities. One or two hostels are in an absolutely dilapidated state. Still, the Dalit students are staying in these hostels and pursuing their studies. Ambedkar hostel’s Dharmendra said, “The Saidpurwallahs are moneyed people. If nothing, they can start a business to make a living. But poor students like us are somehow studying. Even that they cannot tolerate.”
Be that as it may, the progressive forces, which claim to be great benefactors of the Dalit-Backwards are maintaining a stoic silence on the issue. What is surprising is that newspapers carried a statement issued by Anshuman Singh, Vice-President of Leftist students’ body AISF in which he backed the feudal students of Saidpur hostel. When asked, he frankly admitted, “The Saidpur students had supported me in the elections so they expect my support. But I have nothing to do with their wrongdoings.” All India Students’ Association (AISA) did not react to the incident. When his reaction was sought, AISA’s Mukhtar said, “The attack on Dalit students is the outcome of the age-old feudal mentality. We condemn it”. There is little hope from All India Backward Students’ Forum (AIBSF), as it had an electoral alliance with Bhumihar students’ organisation Bihar Chhatra Sangharsh Morcha.
The Dalit students are pursuing their studies despite all the odds. They want to become self-sufficient. They are struggling against the feudal musclemen but it is unfortunate that neither the government nor anyone else is paying attention to their problems.
Published in the March 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine
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