Bihar: The Communal Conundrum

Written by Mohammed Sajjad | Published on: December 7, 2015
a close aide of a Bhumihar strongman and Congress leader of Muzaffarpur, Raghunath Pandey), who patronized him in obtaining contracts for government constructions. Raghunath Pandey, a cinema and transport entrepreneur lorded over Muzaffarpur in the 1970s and 1980s, and became a minister in the Satyendra Narayan Sinha’s cabinet in the late 1980s. Later, the two (Pandey and Prasad) had a fall out.

Brij Bihari Prasad became an MLA from Adapur (Champaran) in 1990 and in 1995, while he was running for the 1985 elections. After 1990, he symbolized the assertion of backward castes in the city of Muzaffarpur, otherwise identified as a centre of the economic and political power of the Bhumihars. In the Rabri cabinet, he was the minister of science and technology when he was killed on June 13, 1998, in broad daylight, in a hospital of Patna. This was seen as revenge by Munna Shukla. This is how Munna Shukla rose to prominence and was elected MLA from Lalganj in 2000 (as Independent) and in 2005 (in February from the LJP when the assembly could not be formed; and in October from the JDU). When he (along with another Bhumihar gangster-politician from Mokamah, Suraj Bhan Singh) was convicted in the murder case of Brij Bihari Prasad, Munna Shukla’s wife Annu Shukla became an MLA (JDU) from Lalganj in 2010. In the 2015 elections, she was defeated by LJP’s Raj Kumar Sah, a Bania, identified as a backward caste in Bihar. Lalganj Assembly is a segment of Hajipur Lok Sabha represented by Ramvilas Paswan. Earlier it was a part of the Vaishali Lok Sabha.

Brij Bihari Prasad's widow Rama Devi joined the BJP and was elected to the Lok Sabha from Sheohar in 2009, and 2014. Interestingly, she was earlier elected to the Motihari Lok Sabha as RJD nominee in 1998 defeating the BJP's Radha Mohan Singh by a huge margin. Rama Devi received her education from the SRPS College, Jaintpur (Muzaffarpur).

Today the question is: has this electoral defeat made Munna Shukla desperate? Did he play any role in the Agarpur communal violence?

Nitish Kumar is credited to have “single-handedly” converted, the 'niyojit' sikshaks (contractually appointed teachers) numbering a total of 3,34,000, into regular government employees with a proper pay-scale, something that few state governments have done.

Munna Shukla is learned to have become little desperate about the course of his political career. In the recent, high voltage election and the significant victory of the Mahagathbandhan, upper caste hegemony has received another little more jolt. Shukla, despite being with the Mahagathbandhan has not been very comfortable with Nitish Kumar. Moreover, the Mahagathbandhan by not conceding a single Assembly seat to the Congress in Muzaffarpur and Vaishali sent a rather strong message to the Bhumihars and Rajputs in these parts of Bihar. They feel further marginalised in the present regime. This insecurity is also visible in the conduct of professor Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, a Rajput, and also the vice president of the RJD, who lost the last parliamentary elections from Vaishali (to the LJP’s Ramakishor Singh, a man with a criminal record). Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, as also JDU’s MLC Dinesh Singh of Muzaffarpur, have both failed in transferring the Rajput votes to the RJD (Mahagathbandhan) candidates in the just concluded assembly elections.

The CSDS-Lokniti report reveals that the Rajputs have been more enthusiastic supporters and voters of the BJP in Bihar in 2015, with 69-70% of them having voted for the BJP. Singh’s electorates in Vaishali-Muzaffarpur, have long standing complaints that his favours go much disproportionately to his caste peers, the Rajputs. Both Shukla and Singh, are now reported to be feeling a great sense of insecurity within the Mahagathbandhan. It is more than likely that the ruling dispensation would search for new leaders from among the Bhumihars and Rajputs in this part of Bihar.

So Nanhe Khan, the vehicle owner of Agarpur (Lalganj), both a close aide of Munna Shukla, and also being upwardly mobile in terms of economic affluence and his muscle flexing tendencies, has been an eyesore to the locality. Nanhe Khan also had some conflicts with some Hindus of the neighbouring village, Jehanabad. This conflict got