The stone pelting incident may spell the end of Nitish’s appeal—ground report from Nandan, Bihar
Nitish Kumar has been a popular CM of Bihar by virtue of the political narrative he created. But incidents that happened at Nandan, before and after his visit, have irreparably damaged his appeal
Does the incident of stone-pelting of Bihar's Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's convoy at Nandan village in Buxar district mark the countdown to the end of Nitish Kumar's appeal? This question comes to mind instantly after listening to victims of police brutality in Nandan, which took place after the incident. Nitish Kumar is a popular chief minister of Bihar for the last 13 years, despite having the least number of political supporters in the state. This can be assessed by the fact that he could not win whenever his Janata Dal (United) party fought the elections alone. He always needed an alliance with another party. His popularity, thus, is based entirely on the political narrative created by him through his decisions and policies. The two most important constituencies of this narrative are women and Mahadalits. Both of them, women and Mahadalits, have been hurt in Nandan village.
The incident and aftermath
On January 12, 2018, the news of stone pelting on the convoy of the Bihar Chief Minister at Nandan village in Buxar, made headlines across the country. After that, the news of the police brutality on the Dalits of the village disappeared from the mainstream media, while social media has done the task of bringing it to public notice and trying to keep it in discussion. Police and the security personnel of the Chief Minister wreaked havoc after the Chief Minister's programme. Dalits were fiercely beaten up at Nandan. The approximately 300-strong population of Dalits comprises largely of Mahadalits—Musahar, Ravidas, Pasi and Paswani. Even women were not spared by the male policemen. Many people, including women, were arrested after police entered their houses.
Reason behind stone pelting incident
Nitish Kumar was on a review tour when he reached Nandan. The purpose of the review tour, according to Nitish, was to assess the implementation of the ‘Saat Nischay’, or seven-point development plan of the Bihar government. The Saat Nishchay includes 35% reservation for women in government jobs, student credit card for youth, self-help allowance, free Wifi in universities and colleges, providing clean water to every household, a pucca road to every village and providing electricity connections to every household.
Taps were made available in the Dalit settlement of Nandan, but these were of no use without water supply. The drainage system could not be developed in this locality. The Chief Minister did not go to this settlement in the village. Angered by this, a group of Dalit women came to meet him to convey their pleas to the CM. But when the Chief Minister left the village without meeting the aggrieved women, the crowd present at that time threw stones on his convoy.
JD(U) Dumraon MLA Dadan Pahalwan angers the gathered crowd
The villagers said that the MLA of the area, Dumraon MLA Dadan Pahalwan who represents Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) in the Bihar assembly, came to meet the aggrieved people a day earlier. The intelligence department had already warned that there is dissatisfaction in this village. Besides the waterless tap issue, it is said that liquor was found in the house of the Mukhiya Bablu Pathak, but no action was taken against him. The Chief Minister’s programme was also planned at the house of the Mukhiya.
In order to suppress this dissatisfaction, MLA Dadan Pahalwan had invited the people of the Dalit Basti with a delegation to present their demands to the CM. A group of women then went, before the meeting, to where the Chief Minister was staying in the village. It is conjectured that the Chief Minister got angry at this and refused to meet the delegation. Eyewitnesses say that the MLA Dadan Pahalwan pushed an elderly woman and a youth, causing the woman to be wounded. Due to this, the gathered crowd stoned the Chief Minister's convoy.
And the brutality...
Anju, treasurer of a self-help group in Nandan says, "The Chief Minister did not come to us even when he came to see us. He stayed at the door of the big people. He went to the place where the work of drains, roads and water tank was done. The people in our group were unhappy with no work in our area. We went to Nitish Bhaiya to talk about our grief. The drain was not made in our area; there is no water supply in the tap. There was a sudden uproar and havoc. Later the MLA and the police beat us up. Dalit women were dragged out of their houses. The police filed a complaint against me and others, even against my young teenage daughter, and my husband. My husband lives in Saudi Arabia, he was not even here on that day."
Ratan Lal, a professor of Delhi University, who participated in the Dalit Mahapanchayat, says, “When someone’s politics goes wrong, it becomes cruel and oppressive. This is happening with Nitish Kumar. At the same time, Sharad Yadav says,” If Nitish Kumar is unable to review the development of a mohalla, then how he can review the development of the whole state?”
After the stone pelting on the Chief Minister's convoy, the SDM himself filed a complaint against the villagers. Dozens of people were named in the FIR. From the list of people, it looks as if the names have been included in random manner. Many of these people were not present in the village that day, but were working in Middle East countries.
A large number of women were named in the FIR. Many houses of the village are still locked. The villagers, while pointing out a locked house, said that 'this entire family isn’t daring to come to the village, even though it is a relative family of a Dalit minister'.
Opposition leaders organise Dalit Mahapanchayat at Nandan
The Opposition adopted an aggressive stand against the oppression of Dalits and Dalit women in the Nandan incident. Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and Leader of Opposition in the Bihar assembly Tejashwi Yadav visited the village. Expelled JD(U) leaders Sharad Yadav and Ali Anwar, who revolted against Nitish Kumar when he ditched the Mahagathbandhan government of RJD-JD(U)-Congress and joined hands with the BJP, organised a Dalit Mahapanchayat in Nandan on January 31. Dalit women present at the Mahapanchayat spoke particularly about the brutality by the police. Yadav castigated Nitish Kumar as ‘anti-Dalit’, as has the Hindustani Awam Morcha leader Jitan Ram Manjhi.
On the day of the Mahapanchayat, news spread in the village that the government has not opposed the bail of the arrested people. Later, it turned out that only the arrested women got bail as the government did not oppose their plea.
Ratan Lal, a professor of Delhi University, who participated in the Dalit Mahapanchayat, says, "When someone's politics goes wrong, it becomes cruel and oppressive. This is happening with Nitish Kumar. At the same time, Sharad Yadav says, "If Nitish Kumar is unable to review the development of a mohalla, then how he can review the development of the whole state?"
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