File image of Kanhaiya Kumar | Commons
File image of Kanhaiya Kumar | Commons
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In popular Bihari Marxist lexicon, Begusarai was known as the ‘Leningrad of Bihar’.

So, it sounds logical that the poster boy of the Communist Party of India, Kanhaiya Kumar, is fighting the Lok Sabha election from this constituency. However, it won’t break the status quo. The landed Bhumihars, the caste to which Kumar belongs, have always dominated the politics of Begusarai.

Interestingly when union minister Giriraj Singh, also a Bhumihar, was asked by the BJP to contest from this seat, he refused. After much dilly-dallying, he has been asked by party president Amit Shah to stay put in Begusarai.

If the Begusarai seat remains with the Bhumihars, it will be no departure from tradition. Even if Kanhaiya Kumar wins, the only change will be that the seat will now be held by a progressive-sounding Bhumihar who utters ‘Jai Bhim’ and ‘Lal Salam’ in the same breath.


Also read: What Kanhaiya Kumar didn’t learn at JNU – for Lalu Prasad Yadav, family always comes first


The Leningrad of Bihar

No socialist proletariat revolution has ever happened in Begusarai, nor is there any remote possibility of such a revolution happening there. Even during the Naxalbari days, Begusarai remained silent, as if nothing was happening in the country. Nearby, in Mushahari of Muzaffarpur district and in the ‘flaming fields’ of central Bihar, the Naxalites tried to mobilise the lower peasantry, but Begusarai was not bothered.

So, what can be the rationale behind calling Begusarai the ‘Leningrad of Bihar’? Begusarai is one of the unique areas in Bihar where the Communist Party of India still has some hold and has won some assembly elections. Although it has failed to win a Lok Sabha election here, the lack of a success story anywhere else in Bihar made the CPI love the idea of Begusarai.

If CPI’s Kanhaiya Kumar wins this battle, it will be the first such win for the party in Begusarai. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, CPI candidate Rajendra Prasad Singh got 17.8 per cent of the vote share and stood third after the BJP and the RJD. In that sense, Kanhaiya winning this seat will be a departure from the norm in the political sphere at least.

But it won’t be a break from the past.


Also read: What Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid & Umar Khalid plan to do with their JNU PhDs


A Bhumihar bastion

Begusarai has always seen a Bhumihar-Brahmin win the seat, no matter the party. The only exception was 2009 elections, when a Muslim candidate won the seat. In 2014, a Bhumihar candidate, Bhola Singh, from the BJP won in Begusarai. He was earlier associated with the CPI and then switched sides. His ideology changed, but his caste affiliation continued.

Begusarai was never a bastion of the Communists, but it has always been a bastion of the dominant Bhumihar-Brahmins. The leadership of the Bihar unit of the CPI always came from this caste, so they see their domination as the domination of Left politics.

However, the CPI has never been a radical force in Bihar, neither in politics nor in the sphere of social change.

Sahajanand Saraswati, a Bhumihar himself, formed the All India Kisan Sabha in 1936 and mobilised his caste men to claim land rights. The Kisan Sabha later became a frontal organisation of the CPI. This is the genesis of the hegemonic position Bhumihars enjoys in the Bihar unit of the CPI.

Incidentally, the same caste group was instrumental in the worst caste oppression of the landless labourers, mostly Dalits and lower OBCs. In the 1990s, Bhumihar landowners formed the Ranvir Sena under the leadership of a criminal, Brahmeshwar Singh, which was responsible for some of the worst Dalit massacres in Bihar.

Brahmeshwar Singh was lodged in jail for a few years and when he was released, he was gunned down. The Bhumihars launched a massive protest in Patna and burned many buses and shops in one of the worst urban violence incidents the city had witnessed. Bhumihar organisations still celebrate Singh’s death anniversary as ‘martyr’ day.

The CPI never saw any contradiction between organising landless labourers and having a party structure dominated by upper castes, especially the Bhumihars. In this backdrop, it sounds absurd that a Communist party is being headed by this social group and still claiming to usher in a new dawn for the poorest of the poor.


Also read: Shehla Rashid to join ex-IAS officer Shah Faesal’s party, contest state or Lok Sabha polls


Caste blind upper castes

Kanhaiya Kumar belongs to the same Bhumihar caste. He may say that he does not have a caste, but that’s moot. The Bhumihars surely consider him as one of their own. Caste blindness is a privilege that only the upper castes enjoy because they are not the victims of the caste system, and have access to many privileges due to their position. They can afford to ignore their caste. When asked by a BBC journalist about how his caste has benefitted him, Kanhaiya was baffled and posed the same question back to the upper caste journalist. Both of them laughed it away.

This reminds us of what Dr B.R. Ambedkar had once famously said: “You may argue that there are secular Brahmins and priestly Brahmins, and if the latter do not take up the cudgels on behalf of those who want to break caste, the former will. All this, of course, sounds very plausible. But in all this, it is forgotten that the break-up of the caste system is bound to adversely affect the Brahmin caste. Having regard to this, is it reasonable to expect that the Brahmins will ever consent to lead a movement, the ultimate result of which is to destroy the power and prestige of the Brahmin caste? Is it reasonable to expect the secular Brahmins to take part in a movement directed against the priestly Brahmins? In my judgment, it is useless to make a distinction between the secular Brahmins and priestly Brahmins. Both are kith and kin. They are two arms of the same body, and one is bound to fight for the existence of the other”

Kanhaiya won the election of JNUSU despite his organisation, AISF, being non-existent there. Now, he has a better chance of winning the ‘Bhumihargrad’ that is Begusarai.

The author is a senior journalist.

Check out My543, our comprehensive report card of all Lok Sabha MPs.


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19 COMMENTS

  1. Astonishing the author has sought to condemn an entire caste.
    Where the author deserves praise is his unmasking of the poster boy of liberal leftist pseuds, Kanhaiya Kumar — a leading member of the the tukde tukde gang.

  2. The whole article can be summarized in one line – “No forward caste person can ever be a progressive politician”. I am guessing the author will now start attacking people like Jean Dreze as faux-activists…

  3. While I do generally agree with the most observations of Dilip Mandal, I have some disagreements as well. For one even though the class character of the petti bourgeoise is compradore the leadership of a socialist revolution also comes from the same class and therefore we cannot condemn Kanhaiya before giving him a chance. Two, at the moment we need a Bhumihar to counter and defeat another communally venomous Bhumihar like Giriraj Singh. A Yadav, an OBC, a Dalit and least of all a Muslim, would stand no chance against Giriraj Singh in the Bhumihar bastion Begusarai

  4. And they say it’s the upper castes who propound hatred and divide in the society! Grow up Mr. Mandal! Stop playing the victim card for once & shed some light out of your intellect on the irreparable damage pseudointellectuals like you have brought upon the younger generation of your own clan by proclaiming the so called ‘opressor-opressed perpetuity’. Don’t you feel reservation which was meant to uplift your brethren has become a means to deprive people of your own by your own? Those like you have clinged to it for eternity in every sphere and have been denying the benefits to those of your own. It’s 72 years past Independence and you still find solidarity in the dark ages? Shame!

  5. In November 2018, The Print carried article which informed us on what Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid and Umar Khalid would do after getting their PhDs from JNU. As per the article, none of them would join politics. Less than 5 months of that article, Kanhaiya is a MP candidate and Shehla Rashid has joined a political party in J&K and might even be an MP candidate. What does this tell you about the quality of journalism in The Print?

  6. Whatever is written about kanhaiya in this article is a matter of perceptions. And the perception are formed on the basis of experiences in the past. But the some facts are presented by this article are absolutely true
    1. Communist parties leaderships in bihar are dominated by upper castes in bihar mainly Bhumihars
    2. In the time of naxalite movement in bihar bhumihars have joined the communist party to save their land.
    3. Brahmeshwar Mukhiya was a terrorist. Their gangs use to exploit lower caste in area of buxar and Aarah. They have unleashed uncountable number of caste atrocities in these area.
    4. I personally know the so called leningrad Begusarai is a highly casteist and feudal society. Begusarai has never seen any people movement under the leadership of cpi . Maha dalit , dalit and EBC people still faces all form of caste discrimination and atrocities

  7. Dr Kanhaya Kumar is fighting Electition from his home district. Why are you attaching cast tag to an intellectual who always says he wants freedom from cast system? It is not his mistake that Begusarai in Bihar is dominated by Bumihars. Let a communist man win without a cast tag.

  8. Whatever is written about kanhaiya in this article is a matter of perceptions. And the perception are formed on the basis of experiences in the past. But the some facts are presented by this article are absolutely true
    1. Communist parties leaderships in bihar are dominated by upper castes in bihar mainly Bhumihars
    2. In the time of naxalite movement in bihar bhumihars have joined the communist party to save their land.
    3. Brahmeshwar Mukhiya was a terrorist. Their gangs use to exploit lower caste in area of buxar and Aarah. They have unleashed uncountable number of caste atrocities in these area.
    4. I personally know the so called leningrad Begusarai is a highly casteist and feudal society. Bhola singh himself was a dabang.
    Not a single people movements are done by the communist of Begusarai in Begusarai in favour of maha dalit or worker or landless labour or for any oppressed community in Bihar

  9. Common lets do a survey. Those cursing Mr. Mandal, in comment section are mostly mishra Or come from so called ‘upper cast’. It shows how much cast prejudice is still prevalent in our society. And happy that he used the word “criminal” For criminal.
    Kanhaiya often says…. Hame chahiye Azadi, jaatiwaad se Azadi. Bihar has 40 lok sabha seats. He chose to contest begusarai, because of ‘bumihaar caste’ identity. Just using jargon and flowery language, won’t change the ground d realities about caste

  10. Common lets do a survey. Those cursing Mr. Mandal, in comment section are mostly mishra Or come from so called ‘upper cast’. It shows how much cast prejudice is still prevalent in our society. And happy that he used the word “criminal” For criminal.
    Kanhaiya often says…. Hame chahiye Azadi, jaatiwaad se Azadi. Bihar has 40 lok sabha seats. He chose to contest begusarai, because of ‘bumihaar caste’ identity. Just using jargon and flowery language, won’t change the ground d realities about caste

  11. My good wishes to Kanhaiya kumar who is raising his voices to a common man of India, and which is totally democratic. His speeches is unparalleled compared to other politicians, it is a need of present time.

  12. What a shameless writer Mr. mandal is……he writes that…..”the seat shall be held by progresive-sounding Bhumihar who utters ‘Jai Bhim’ and ‘Lal Salam’ in the same breath”
    After that i stopped reading further as has stated his intellectual prowess by then. So long as so called progressive writers like you will remain…there shall always be divide…as that is what helps people like you to thrive…

  13. Mr Mandal, respected Mukhiya Jee was not a criminal, he always fight for poor guys and he was social worker. As you said Bhumihar organisations still celebrate Singh’s death anniversary as ‘martyr’ day. Now hope you will not use word criminal and try to insult a particular community. Thank you …

  14. Nand Kumar prasad ji ur reply to Dilip Mandal is very good but I m afraid if he understands the tough English words u chose

  15. Everyone is free to express and so is Mandalji. But to me it does raises question
    1. Is this narrative comes from the same world view as the oppressor narrative?
    2. Is it a fact that only caste is a way to oppress or their are several other legitimate basis?
    3. Is this narrative only to suppress various young voices by colouring them with the same system of recognition by birth or should one encourage a kanahiya to work with jignesh to bridge this historical undoing?
    I have often found intellectuals from both the side doing almost similar job. None the less, to deny the history of insensitivity towards caste is equally unfair. But to not facilitate assimilation means nothing more than intellectual misuse. In this light Mandalji seems to be no different from other previledged educated people once they hold intellectual power.
    The estimeed writer should be more critical and see a possibility as we see in young people like jignesh or many others to bring closeness yet sensitizing this historical insensitivity. This rhetoric has not helped and only further separates.

  16. The author Dilip Mandal like other mediamen of India nourishes megalomania of being intellectual giant as well dedicated social worker cum reformer and messeiha like N.Mandela . Dilip Mandal’s observations are highly prejudiced and views jaundiced to the core. It appears to originate from personal jealousy,enmity, ignorance, partiality and arrogance. Electronic media arrange debates with vested vile political motive to propagate falsities in allegorical ways with super twist &turn in the shade of informing and educating the masses to confuse, mislead and cause universal bitterbess in the vast secular civil society of nation to serve interests of their Benefactors and Patrons and their own . They do it shamelessly and fearlessly without having any social concern .They stoop to any length to force their points ,ugly wants of popularity and villainy by hook or by crook. They do sometimes write,at times roar, quarrel, insult and adopt all such means to assail and assault but bring the guest participants on knees.
    Accordingly views of D. Mandal are distorted , poorly informed,with malice &vilified.LateSwamy Sahjanand does not need fresh introduction in Bihar, his was a symbol and epitome of Movement of Abolition of Zamindari System or the privileges of Exintermediaries in Bihar which included Upper castes as well as Backward 2 and somewhere BC 1.The credite goes to Sahjanand , The ThenC.M.Dr.S.K.Singh,Dr.A.N.Singh and others of those days.
    Karl Marx ,the man of 19th century has a friend F.Engles who was an industrialst of Britain of high reputation but had been a veteran communist and finished rest two volumes of DasCapital in a way that is out of intellectual range of D Mandal.
    A little humility costs nothing but brings good name , ejaculating venom to spread bad blood in society has been the avowed avocation of your clan Mr.Mandal. It requires indepth knowledge , sustained endeavour and dedication to study,analyse and reaching on conclusion of heterogeineous structure and dynamics of psyche.Thank you.D.Mandal.

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