Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


My name is Ajeet Bharti. However my father has another surname. Similarly, some of my friends have weird surnames like Kumar (the most prevalent in our generation), Sundaram, Ranjan, and Raj etc. Why is that weird? It is weird for they do not project caste, village or lineage as surnames are supposed to do worldwide. None of us have our fathers using such surnames in Bihar from my father’s generation. My father uses Singh, Kumar’s father uses Sahay, Sundaram’s father uses Gupta and so on.

These are manufactured surnames, often borrowed to hide the caste we belong to. The most prevalent, widely used surname in my generation is Kumar and Kumari (for girls). Literally, Kumar means an unmarried boy, and Kumari means, an unmarried girl.

When we look at it from a distance, from a perspective alien to Bihar, we can marvel at the idea of not having surnames that represent an identity. An identity which is often taken negatively by the people that take notice of. While at our school, Sainik School Tilaiya, most of the cadets didn’t have any surname that could reveal their caste.

This was a good thing for us on campus as we didn’t have to fiddle ourselves around who to sit with and who to talk to as we had no idea of caste. At the same age, my nephews, conditioned by the the social structures, very much know why they shouldn’t sit and eat with a guy from lower caste.

The doing away with surnames to hide the caste identity gained momentum after the Bihar Movement, helmed by dynamic Jayprakash Narayan or JP, as he is popularly known as. It was late 70s that the demand of reservations and upper caste people’s wrath ensured that the lower caste people hid their identities.

The surnames became a means to target the lower caste in jobs, exams, and at educational institutions along with the prevalent social stigma.

However, the time took a turn and lower caste people started targeting the upper caste as they reached good positions in various fields due to merit and reservation. This was the time when the upper caste people started to hide their surnames under Kumar, Raj etc.

From one angle, it is a beautiful thing to have. People respecting (or hating) people for what they are and not for what castes they belonged to. The menace of this carcinogenic idea becomes visible, and talked about, whenever elections take place.

Political importance

Ideologies, promises, perks and issues take a backseat when elections are announced in Bihar. I vividly remember an aspiring MLA ticket seeking industrialist from my district, taking stock of the caste factor every single morning I visited him. It was a daily ritual for him.

Everyone is, perhaps, clear about ‘how things work’ in Bihar. Jumlebazi is reserved for press meets and rallies. Development issues, problems of state are merely printed words in the manifesto. It is not that people don’t want to hear them or to see them getting realised, rather caste factor in Bihar elections is so rampant, that it percolates to the gene-level.

The aspiring ticket seeker I talked about, would micro-manage the caste equation. Ratio of Bhumihars (An upper caste) in a particular village, influential Bhumihars, Bhumihar mukhiyas would all be printed in a sheet as he would mark out the names on the voter list with caste column written by pen.

It would be followed by how to tackle low-caste dominated areas where the strategists would suggest trying to get the area declared as ‘sensitive’ which would result in lower percentage of polling.

(Mis)use and (ab)use of caste

The most dangerous, and pathetic, portrayal of the caste takes place when every leader from every party starts to use the ‘formula’ to woo voters. Convicted criminals like Lalu Prasad Yadav use the caste card to fool the voters. I remember the days when the schools in my village and adjoining places had no roofs, no teachers and everything was left to the Sun god.

This was the time when Lalu ruled. This was the time when his simple formula was to keep the mass uneducated and tell them anything and without any resource to ascertain the fact, they would believe. Precisely the reason why everyone from my generation had to study in mushrooming private schools or come to places like Delhi.

Now, Lalu Prasad Yadav, a convict who can’t fight elections, is going to rallies and spreading false ideas like BJP wants to end reservation etc. He is trying hard to sell himself as a messiah, a champion of the poor and Dalits. However, the fact remains that if Dalits or Yadavs are one of the most illiterate classes from Bihar, it is due to his ignorance.

Singing the same old tune on a broken harp, RJD supremo, with no other issue in sight, described the crucial Assembly polls in Bihar as a direct fight between the backward castes and forward castes. He gave a clarion call to Yadavas and other backward castes to rally behind the ‘secular alliance’ to defeat the BJP-led NDA.

This is an unfortunate situation for Biharis who are ridiculed for this kind of fixation with caste. It is sad that someone, convicted of scams and barred from fighting elections, has the audacity to incite the caste factor vocally when the Election Commission’s code of conduct is in force.

Lalu’s friend-turned-foe-turned-friend Nitish Kumar coined a term like EBC (Extremely Backward Class) and initiated a series of policies for their betterment. When he came in power in 2005, everyone had hopes. He did work hard to improve education and transport infrastructure. Roads are visible in villages, and schools have buildings.

People saw a ray of hope in Nitish Kumar. He became the metaphorical silver-lining in cloud for Bihar.

However, in the last two years he dumped the development politics and focussed himself on replying to ‘jumlas’ and jibes from BJP. When the future looked bleak, he had to shake hands with Lalu Prasad Yadav and try to justify it by playing the communal and secular cards. These cards didn’t do any good to any party in the 2014 elections as BJP moved ahead with issues while all others tried to counter it by sloganeering.

Caste equations and its implications came to the fore when Lalu, imitating Indira Gandhi’s ‘Garibi Hatao’, gave the election-cry: BhuRaBaL Hatao. Where ‘BhuRaBaL’ denotes the top four upper castes in Bihar: Bhumihar, Rajpoot, Brahman, and Lala.

Centuries of oppression of lower caste was somehow subverted with Lalu’s ascent as they gave him 15 years of power that saw no governance. Deliberate ignorance to policy making was evident when Nitish came to power in 2005 and the state had nothing to lose as it had seen its nadir during Lalu’s ‘Jungle Raaj’. However, it did no good to the lower caste as Lalu was just preparing his family case while (not) running Bihar.

Recalling Lalu’s impact of governance (or the lack of it) in his Telegraph column in 2014, Ramachandra Guha remarked, “Murders and kidnappings were common. It was unsafe to walk the streets of Patna after dark. It was unsafe to drive in many districts even during the day. Fifteen years of rule by Lalu Prasad and his family had depleted the state’s finances and demoralized the bureaucracy.”

Assembly elections

Recently, when Lalu and Nitish were seen ‘championing’ the cause of lower caste (again) by making statements centred around caste, BJP swiftly said it would ensure that CM is not from upper caste.

But the question is, will this caste card have the same impact this time? If we go by this article on Indian Express, the mahadalits (EBCs) who had voted Nitish to power are now disenchanted by his theatrics and handshake with Lalu.

As the election dates are nearing, mud slinging has started with jibes like ‘chaara-chor Lalu’ (Fodder thief Lalu) and ‘Narbhakshi Amit Shah’ (Cannibal Amit Shah). Jungle Raj 2, Madal Raj 2 are the phrases in vogue as Bihar goes to vote.

It is an undeniable fact that as with the search for a suitable groom people go for caste and gotra match, similarly, during elections people vote for caste.

The reason is, they have no other connection from these leaders who seldom have anything else to offer. However, increased literacy and awareness has made this habit somewhat less obvious.

Ticket distribution pattern and caste

NDA has announced its list of candidates for the elections and the caste factor is abundantly clear in the ticket distribution. Although the upper caste constitutes just about 15% of Bihar’s population, it does influence the lower caste votes. They are the opinion leaders in villages where they dominate the power.

Unless, there is a reserved seat for the lower caste as mukhiya, the panchayat seldom gets a lower caste village chief. Even in the reserved seats, the backward caste candidate that wins is the one with the backing of upper caste.

For the coming Bihar polls, as many as 84 upper caste candidates have been fielded by NDA out of the total 243 seats in the assembly. This includes 36 Rajputs and 28 Bhumihars, the two dominant castes of the state.

The grand alliance (JD-U, RJD and Congress), for the 85% of Bihar’s backward population (including OBCs), has announced 64 Yadavs – 48 of them by the RJD alone – apart from 33 Muslims as candidates. This reflects the traditional social support base of MY (Muslim-Yadav) for the RJD and JD-U.

Apart from these 97, the alliance is also dependent on on the OBCs- Koeris and Kurmis. A total of 47 candidates from OBC, 30 Koeris and 17 Kurmis (Nitish Kumar’s caste men), have been fielded by the grand alliance.

The break up looks like this: OBC+EBCs 55%; Muslims 14%; SC+ST 16%; general or upper caste 16%. (percent data is in approx values)

Let’s see how it unfolds

It’s just a matter of few weeks when the results would be announced. It would be interesting to see if Biharis choose to fall for the ‘caste factor’ or go after the rhetorical ‘development’ agenda. Given the increasing literacy rate, still among the lowest in nation, and penetration of social media, people might have better idea of their leaders.

However painful it is for me, as a Bihari, to write this, but caste is not going to go away that easily from the Bihari psyche. Caste equation might not be so obvious in this election as in the 1990s but, for certain, it will have an impact till the realisation of its ghastliness comes to the voter.


Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Char Dham Yatra resumed on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

As weather cleared up in Uttarakhand, Char Dham Yatra restored on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

According to sources, road leading to Badrinath has been repaired and helicopter service has also resumed.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited Dungi village and met families of people who were missing after the landslip incident, and consoled them.

Dhami assured them of all possible assistance. Two people from the village are still reported to be missing.

Pilgrims were seen leaving from Rishikesh Char Dham Bus terminal and Haridwar bus station for the pilgrimage since morning.

As per the state government, various departments -- Devasthanam Board, police are assisting the pilgrims.

Police Chowki Yatra Bus Terminal, Rishikesh, was announcing passenger-information via loudspeaker.

Free RT-PCR tests of pilgrims were being conducted at Rishikesh bus terminal.

Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board's media in-charge Dr Harish Gaur said pilgrimage was on in Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, while for Kedarnath, helicopter service was also available.

Though the weather was cold in all dhams, thankfully there was no rain, he added.

Portals of the temple in Badrinath will close on November 20, Gangotri on November 5, while that of Kedarnath and Yamunotri on November 6.

Uttarakhand floods, triggered by a major downpour from October 17 to 19, have claimed 65 lives so far, 3,500 people have been rescued while 16,000 evacuated to safety.

Seventeen teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), seven teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), 15 companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and 5,000 police personnel have been engaged in rescue and relief operations.

The state has already been provided with Rs 250 crore Disaster Fund which is being used for relief works.

To prevent spread of the diseases, the Central and state governments have decided to send medical teams to the affected areas.

Snapped power lines will be restored at the earliest, the government assured.

The state government said that as soon as alert for heavy rainfall was issued, the Incident Response System was activated at state and district levels, and pilgrims were halted at safer places. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Uttarakhand, India, Char Dham Yatra, PushkarDhami, Rishikesh.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The Centre has continued the Naga peace talks with the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) leaders, but negotiations face roadblocks as the Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The sources aware of these developments said that the Centre was hopeful that a successful solution of the six decades-long peace talks would arrive at a logical conclusion, but in the recent statements, Naga leaders have accused the Centre of offering post-solution options.

Sources quoting the stand of Naga leaders said that NSCN's stand was loud and clear that it would not follow the forbidden route to the Naga solution that was linked to foregoing the Naga national flag and Constitution, which is the face of the Naga political struggle and identity.

The Naga leaders have also said that the Centre has been using divisive policy and flattery in the name of finding the Naga political solution when the matters heated up.

When the Centre resumed the peace process in September this year and sent the former special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) A.K. Mishra as the Ministry of Home Affairs' emissary to the rebel outfit's chief negotiator and general secretary T. Muivah, he assured him (Muivah) that the peace talks would be initiated under the original framework signed in 2015, a source in the Naga rebel group said.

"Here we are talking about the Naga national flag and Yehzabo (Constitution), the two issues that are holding up the Naga solution under the ongoing Indo-Naga political talks in Delhi.

"The chequered history of the Indo-Naga political issue is clear enough before us, with accords and agreements that were never meant to be implemented in letter and spirit", an important office-bearer of the rebel outfit said while criticizing the governments' stand.

Accusing the Centre, he further accused the Centre of persuading the Naga people again to accept whatever is being offered to hurry up the Naga talks.

On the invitation of the Centre, the senior leaders of the NSCN-IM including T. Muivah arrived in the national capital on October 6 this year to hold another round of talks with the Centre.

Both, the Centre and the Naga leaders had indicated their keenness on resolving this long pending issue by the end of this year in an amicable manner.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who is also chairman of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), and Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had been actively involved in the resumption of the peace talks and taking it forward to a logical conclusion.

Soon after the transfer of Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, who was appointed as the Centre's interlocutor for the Naga peace talks on August 29, 2014, to Tamil Nadu, the peace talks resumed on September 20 in Kohima when the Centre representative met the Naga leaders and invited them to visit Delhi for further rounds of peace talks.

The NSCN-IM and the other outfits entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1997 and over 80 rounds of negotiations with the Centre have been held in the past in successive governments. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Nagaland, India, Constitution, Politics, Flag.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

India-England test series will now be played next year from July 1 at Edgbaston Stadium

The series decider for the Test series between England and India will now be played at Edgbaston from July 1 next year, said the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday. India is currently leading the series 2-1 before the fifth Test at Old Trafford was cancelled hours before the start due to concerns over COVID-19 outbreak in the tourists' camp.

"The fifth match of the LV= Insurance Test Series between England Men and India Men has been rescheduled and will now take place in July 2022. The match, which was due to take place last month at Emirates Old Trafford, was called off when India were unable to field a team due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid-19 cases inside the camp," said an ECB statement.

"With India leading the series 2-1, the concluding fifth match will now take place from July 1, 2022, at Edgbaston, following an agreement between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)," added the statement.

ECB also said that due to the rescheduled Test, the white-ball series between England and India will now start six days later than originally planned. The T20I series will begin on July 7 at Ageas Bowl with Edgbaston and Trent Bridge hosting the second and third matches respectively on July 9 and 10. It will be followed by the ODI series starting on July 12 at The Oval followed by Lord's and Old Trafford hosting the second and third ODI on July 14 and 17 respectively.

"Ticket holders do not have to take any action as all tickets will remain valid for the equivalent rearranged matchday at their host venue. Host venues will communicate the new fixture details to ticket purchasers and the options available to them, including the timeframe for requesting a refund if they are not able to attend the new match day," further said the statement.

"We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement with BCCI to creating a fitting end to what has been a brilliant series so far. I'm very grateful to all the venues involved for the cooperation they've shown in allowing us to reschedule this match. I'd also like to thank Cricket South Africa for their support and understanding to allow these changes to be possible," said Tom Harrison, the CEO of the ECB.

"We would like to apologise again to fans for the disruption and disappointment of September events. We know it was a day that so many had planned long in advance. We recognise that accommodating this extra match means a tighter schedule for the white ball series. We will continue to manage our players' welfare and workloads through next year while we also continue to seek the optimum schedule for fans, players and our partners across the game."

"I am delighted that the England-India Test series will now have its rightful conclusion. The four Test matches were riveting, and we needed a fitting finale. The BCCI recognizes and respects the traditional form of the game and is also mindful of its role and obligations towards fellow Board Members. In the last two months, both BCCI and the ECB have been engaged in discussions and our efforts were aimed at finding a suitable window. I thank the ECB for their understanding and patience in finding an amicable solution," said BCCI Secretary Jay Shah. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: India, Britain, BCCI, Test Match, Cricket.