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Makhdumpur: Road that cuts through, divides politics of caste

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Makhdumpur: It is just a road which divides the residents of Makhdumpur assembly constituency of Maoist effected Jahanabad district. On one side voters openly favour the BJP-led NDA while on the other side, the support is largely for the grand alliance.

NH-83, which comes from Patna via Masaurhi, goes directly to Gaya through Makhdumpur and runs almost parallel to the railway line. The road that divides came about because of historical settlements.

One side is dominated by Bhumihar, Manjhi and Kushwaha community while the other has a majority of Yadava Koiry, Paswan and Ravidas castes among others.

In Bihar, Makhdumpur is still a study in the caste divide that has been evident for long, despite voting on developmental lines in many places.

NDA has fielded Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) president and former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi (69), who is also fighting from Imamganj assembly constituency of the adjoining Gaya district.

The grand alliance has fielded RJD’s Subedar Das (50) of Raidas community. A total of 13 candidates are in the fray including six Paswan’s from different political parties and some independents.

Makhdumpur will vote on October 16 in the second phase of the election.

In Indrapuri village, a group of people were playing cards outside a temple wearing white boat-shaped cap of HAM on their heads.

“All the villages of this side are with NDA. In fact we are supporting Modi ji and will vote for Manjhi,” Sachidanand Sharma told IANS.

“Manjhi has done not much work in the area, but when he was the chief minister at least the roads were constructed and power supply conditions improved,” he added.

Others in the group also vow their support to Modi.

“We are still facing problems in irrigation. The Surhanda dam is being constructed since last three years but still not functional. The construction work was initiated by JD-U government when Vijay Chowdhry was the irrigation minister. We would have voted Nitish Kumar but the scenario changed when he joined hands with Lalu Prasad,” says Mahesh Sharma.

“Abri bhar Manjhi ko vote dekar jitana hai (this time we will vote for Manjhi and make him the winner),” he added.

On the other side of the road, Yadavs overwhelmingly support Lalu Yadav.

Subhash Yadav of Lalabigaha, a Yadav dominated village, said: “whatever development has been done is only visible on the other side of the road. We are being neglected. So we will support Laluji.”

His contention is that “It was Lalu ji who gave voice to us. Subedar Das is a poor boy who is working hard in the area since long. Even Paswans of the area will vote for him,” he added.

Yet, in some villages such as Makarpur, Prabhatnagar and Veera people are more circumspect.

“We have not yet decided whom to support in this election. In the last assembly polls, the Koiry’s and Kushwaha’s supported Nitish Kumar. This time there will be division of votes. Let’s see what happens,” Deepak Mahato, who sells vegetables in Makhdumpur Bazar said.

Manjhi has his own supporters too.

“Manjhiji has assured us Indira Awaas, toilets and community centre. Hope when he wins we will be benefited,” Digan Manjhi, Ranjan Manjhi and Pintu Manjhi said in almost overlapping voices at Khalkochak village of 984 Manjhi voters.

Muslims in the area are also in sizeable numbers.

“If Muslims and Yadav’s vote together in favour of Das, and if he succeeds to get even 25 percent of the Koiry votes, Manjhi will be in trouble,” said a local shopkeeper Ramprasad Sah at Makhdumpur Chowk.

“Even Paswan voters are divided as there are six Paswan candidates in the fray including BSP’s Mrityunjay Paswan,” he added.

Manjhi won the last assembly election from Makhdumpur on JD-U ticket by defeating RJD’s Dharmraj Paswan with a margin of 5085 votes. Not really a decisive number.

(Brajendra Nath Singh, IANS)

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What Would Be The Outcome Of The Judgement On Homosexuality With BJP At The Centre?

If parties like the BJP and "cultural" organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation.

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Flag Of BJP, homosexuality
Ruling on gays: Is the BJP out of sync with modern realities? Flickr

More than the social impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment on homosexuality, what will be of concern to the ruling party at the Centre is its political fallout. Hence, the eloquent silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the subject.

For the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), any expansion of the concept of civil liberties is fraught with danger to their restrictive worldviews since a widening of human rights carries the prospect of greater individualism.

If the rights of the homosexuals to live without legal constraints are conceded, it can only encourage the people to free themselves of other restrictions as well such as on choosing live-in partners (of whatever sex) and eating, dressing and speaking as they please.

Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a “safety valve” which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion.

Moreover, the court had also upheld not long ago the right to privacy which the government described as an “elitist” concept.

For the Hindu Right, as also for other religious fundamentalists, this dalliance with civil rights — the freedom to criticise the government, the exaltation of privacy and now the decriminalisation of homosexuality — entails a push towards liberalism and modernism which are anathema to any group which wants the society to be bound by shackles of orthodoxy and obscurantism.

It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.

Now that one of them is gone, there is little doubt that these closet followers of Britain’s 19th century politician Lord Macaulay — even as they decry the secular groups as “Macaulay’s children” — will hold on resolutely to the law on sedition as their only safeguard against the “anti-nationals” who, they believe, stalk the land.

Homosexuality
It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.
Wikimedia Commons

It is also possible that the saffronites will keep a hawk’s eye on any social problems that may arise because of the assertion of gay rights. As the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said, with eager anticipation, if a five-judge bench can overturn an earlier judgment in favour of criminalising homosexuality, a larger bench can undo the present verdict if gay bars begin to flourish and there is a rise in the cases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections.

Interestingly, what these judgments underline is how the judiciary is more attuned to the changing world than the elected representatives of the hoi polloi who often argue in favour of giving greater primacy to the legislature than the judiciary since they claim to represent the people while the judges are unelected denizens of an ivory tower.

However, one possible reason why MPs and MLAs, especially of the BJP, seem to be out of sync with the present-day world is the presence in their midst of a large number of criminal elements who can hardly be regarded as the most progressive sections of society.

For instance, of the 543 elected members of the Lok Sabha, of whom 186 have a criminal record, 63 belong to the BJP, followed by eight of the Shiv Sena, four of the Trinamool Congress and three each of the Congress and the AIADMK.

Homosexuality
Gay Pride Procession. Pixabay

What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict’s favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.

To distance a party from it, as the BJP is doing, will amount to virtually alienating the entire youth community. Even if a majority among them do not have homosexual instincts — according to official figures, there are 2.5 million gay people in India, but this may be an underestimate since, till now, it was unsafe for them to reveal their sexual orientation — the youths nevertheless see the ruling as an assertion of living life on one’s own terms and not be held hostage by the dictates of a society steeped in conservatism and of political parties which believe that their agenda can only advanced if the country is made forcibly to conform to khap panchayat-style social and cultural norms.

Also Read: Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Instant

To these youths, being or not being aware of homosexuality is of little consequence. What matters to them is to be able to make up their own minds and not be told by elders to abide by certain rules which are regarded as outdated by the younger generation.

If parties like the BJP and “cultural” organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation. (IANS)