Eyewitness account: When Jagdev Babu said, ‘Ninety parts of the hundred are ours’

It was Jagdev Prasad who brought the politics of the Backwards and Dalits in Bihar on a par with the politics of Savarnas by founding the Shoshit Dal. Although he himself never became Chief Minister, it was only because of him that B.P. Mandal, Daroga Prasad Rai, Karpoori Thakur, Bhola Paswan Shastri and others could reach the pinnacle of power. However, Jagdev Babu’s struggle is still unfinished. Shoshit Samaj Dal National President Raghuniram Shastri explains

It was Jagdev Prasad who brought the politics of the Backwards and Dalits in Bihar on a par with the politics of Savarnas by founding the Shoshit Dal. Although he himself never became Chief Minister, it was only because of him that B.P. Mandal, Daroga Prasad Rai, Karpoori Thakur, Bhola Paswan Shastri and others could reach the pinnacle of power. However, Jagdev Babu’s struggle is still unfinished. Shoshit Samaj Dal National President Raghuniram Shastri explains.

“Will the Gadariya, Nai, Dhobi, Badhai, Lohar, Koeri, Kurmi, Mallah, Teli, Chamar and others, extract oil, plough fields, wash clothes, repair shoes by coming to Parliament? What is their need in Parliament?” asked Bal Gangadhar Tilak. This contemptuous comment sparked an uprising of the Dalit-Backwards, and if somebody’s name comes to the fore as its culmination, it is Shaheed Jagdev Prasad. It was he who issued the clarion call for Dalit-Backwards’ share in the wealth, land, jobs, trade as well as in the government and administration in proportion to their population. Later, B.P. Mandal, as the chairman of the Backward Classes Commission, gave a tangible form to the legal process of making those shares a reality. Jagdev Prasad initiated this process in the 1960s, when even talking about the rights of the Dalit-Backwards was almost impossible. It was a landmark movement.

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