When B P Mandal was the Chief Minister of Bihar, due to an oil leakage in the Barouni refinery the river Ganga had caught fire. In the Bihar legislative assembly then, an oppressor-caste member Vivekanand Jha made a casteist remark, “If a Shudra becomes a chief minister, it is bound for the water to catch fire.” B.P Mandal had then riposted, “The fire in Ganga has been caused due to an oil leakage, but the fire in your heart which has been caught due to a son from the Backward community becoming the Chief Minister; can be felt by all.”

Such was the casteist attitude of oppressor castes towards OBCs reaching leadership positions, and hitherto, it prejudicially persists to be so. Amidst circumstances so adverse, B P Mandal as an elected member of the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha in multiple terms; as the Health Minister and then the Chief Minister of Bihar; and then as the Chairman of the Backward Classes Commission; took steps that not only harbingered inclusive representation in society; but also induced a contemporary fervor, self-respect, and assertion amongst OBCs.

Amidst circumstances so adverse, B P Mandal as an elected member of the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha in multiple terms; as the Health Minister and then the Chief Minister of Bihar; and then as the Chairman of the Backward Classes Commission; took steps that not only harbingered inclusive representation in society; but also induced a contemporary fervor, self-respect, and assertion amongst OBCs.

Mandal — the synonym to social justice

Chapter IV (Social Backwardness and Caste) of the first part of the Mandal Commission’s Report states, “If religion was ever used as the opium of the masses, it was done in India, where a small priestly class, by a subtle process of conditioning the thinking of the vast majority of the people, hypnotized them for ages into accepting a role of servility with humility. As laborers, cultivators, craftsmen, etc., Shudras were the main producers of social surplus. Their social labor was the life-blood of India’s great civilization. Yet socially they were treated as out-castes; they had no right in private property, they carried the main burden of taxes and the heaviest punishments were awarded to them for minor infringements of the social code. As their low-caste status was tied to their birth, they toiled and suffered without any hope.”

And the Mandal Commission, headed by B P Mandal, became the ground to change this devastating status quo. Today, the name ‘Mandal’ has acquired symbolic prominence as the poecilonym of social justice and self-representation for OBCs.

SURAJ YADAV OPINION: Tribute to B P Mandal on his birth anniversary on 25th  August
Image Source: Blogspot

Also read: Manyavar Saheb Kanshi Ram: The Leader Of The Masses

Early life, and casteism faced at school

Born on 25th August 1918 in Varanasi, far away from his village Murho in Bihar, Bindeshwari Prasad Mandal had a life inundated with caste-based discrimination and a revolutionary zeal to not only overcome it; but to construct situations for others to resist it too. His father Rasbehari Mandal was a distinguished freedom fighter and was among the founding figures of the Indian National Congress and unfortunately passed away, just the next day after B P Mandal was born.

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Born into a Shudra (OBC) family and brought up by his mother Sitawati Devi and elder brother Kamleshwari Mandal; B P Mandal faced heinous caste-based discrimination during his higher secondary school where Shudra(OBC) students were given meals only after the oppressor caste students had completed eating. And in the classroom, OBC students could sit on the backbenches only after the so-called upper caste kids had occupied the front benches. At times, OBC students were forced to sit on the floor. Such a casteist system inside educational premises had been normalised ever since.

However, for B P Mandal; the man replete with righteous self-worth and voice against violence; this was an unacceptable juncture. Owing to exploitatively extracted social privilege, the number of oppressor caste students in the school was much higher as compared to Bahujan students but B P Mandal protested against the administration and ultimately, the practice was ceased.

A peremptory aspect to be noted in both these cases of B P Mandal and his Bahujan counterparts facing casteism at school and of him facing casteist remarks during his tenure as a Chief Minister is that even while he was studying at school, he was the son of a prominent OBC politician, and when he faced casteist remarks in the Legislative Assembly; he was the Chief Minister of the state. That is, no economic advancement or leadership position could eradicate the casteism he faced at every stage.

Such a casteist scenario then raises questions over the existence of the creamy layer ceiling; one which has often been purposely miscalculated and wrongly implemented by the oppressor caste-controlled administration; even though a DOPT Memorandum on the NCBC website clearly states that “Income from salaries or agricultural land shall not be clubbed.

Multitudinous successes and a trailblazing path

B P Mandal utilised his comprehensive experience, incisive intellect, and anti-dogmatic leadership skills to commence the uprooting of social ignominies of the caste-based system during his college years as well. At the young age of 23, he was chosen as a member of the Bhagalpur district board and then got appointed as an Honorary Magistrate. However, he resigned later when he faced issues while working for the marginalized. He then won a seat in the first Vidhan Sabha of Bihar.

With multiple terms at the Vidhan Sabha and the Lok Sabha, and the founding of his party named Shoshit Dal; B P Mandal had multitudinous achievements to his name. Yet, at every step when he was compelled to compromise, he took a staunch stand. He became the seventh chief minister of the State and it was during his tenure that equitable representation for OBCs was introduced in the cabinet. Though, he resigned within 47 days in opposition to the removal of an inquiry commission meant to investigate the charges on senior leaders and ministers; he went on to again win elections in 1968 and 1972. He then resigned again, protesting against corruption, and then won a seat at the Lok Sabha.

Fight against caste-atrocities on OBCs by the oppressor castes

When Rajput landowners had attacked a Kurmi-caste (OBC) village in the Pama village in Bihar; and the police had committed atrocities against backward class citizens; B P Mandal had then put a plea during a session of the Bihar assembly for immediate government action against the police and compensation for the victims. However, he was agonizingly pressurized to remove his plea. Immediately, he left the treasury bench and joined the opposition bench to fight against this casteist abuse.

Also read: The Modern Savarna And The Caste-Is-Dead Narrative

Stand to shun the usage of casteist slurs against OBCs by oppressor castes

Back in those days when members from the so-called upper castes used casteist remarks in the Bihar state assembly; B P Mandal resiliently retaliated and asked for the ban on the usage of such denigrating comments. Once when the word Gwala (dairy-farming caste classified as OBCs) was being used derogatorily in the Assembly continuously; B P Mandal had confronted them. Then the oppressor caste members had brazenly replied that these words are a part of their vocabulary and hence cannot be banned. B P Mandal had then vocalized that even abuses are a part of their vocabulary and whether they would be used as well. And hence, casteist remarks were banned in the assembly.

Reservation stands for representation. On 20th December 1978, the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai had announced the decision to appoint the Backward Classes Commission under the chairmanship of B P Mandal, and the report was submitted on 31st December 1980 after myriad tribulations faced and overcome by the commission.

Imperative aspects of the Mandal Commission Report which are yet to be implemented

Reservation stands for representation. On 20th December 1978, the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai had announced the decision to appoint the Backward Classes Commission under the chairmanship of B P Mandal, and the report was submitted on 31st December 1980 after myriad tribulations faced and overcome by the commission.

The Mandal Commission had given forty recommendations; which if implemented back then, would have radically led India into the path of development by now. Alas, the casteist nexus of oppressor-caste administration, bureaucracy, judiciary, and media have hitherto hindered the proper implementation of the report.

After turbulences and obstructions by the oppressor castes, only two recommendations of the report related to employment and education which were accepted, came into effect only in September 1993 and August 2008, respectively.

The oppressor-caste-dominated newsrooms have never deliberated on the Mandal Commission Report in a satisfactory manner. If at all, their casteist wickedness has only promulgated fabricated notions about it. However, empirically detailed, societally thoughtful, mathematically expansive, and logically irrefutable, the Mandal Commission Report is the salient document of post-colonial India; amalgamating the essence of the past; comprehending the contemporary discourse, and directing the vision for the future. Importantly, the Mandal Commission report also took cognizance of the casteism among the minority communities and endeavored to emancipate the productive-marginalized castes across all.

Post-Mandal violence perpetrated by oppressor castes manifests their own meritlessness

The United Front government, led by the then Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh, had attempted to implement two of the forty recommendations by the Mandal Commission. Yet, oppressor castes chose violence instead of reading the comprehensive report which underlines the oppression faced by OBCs for thousands of years until today; and analyses how casteism has not eroded but has only evolved forms and stayed intact in the society. Interestingly, oppressor-caste-dominated media had chosen to call this a “protest” instead of “barbaric violence”.

How Anti-Mandal Protests Stoked 'Caste Fires' in Our Young Minds
The violence against Mandal Commission recommendations. Image Source: The Quint

So-called upper castes should have implemented affirmative policies for OBCs just after Independence. That they have the audacity to deny the OBCs affirmative action post-independence, to perpetuate violence against it post-Mandal, and then to still post casteist tweets against OBC reservations today; only canvasses their sheer callousness.

While some attempt has been made in the West towards representation and reparations, oppressor castes in India have been intentionally abusing their exploitative position. Interestingly, they are the first ones to take away affirmative action claiming to be brown in the West, even after earning myriad times more than any “creamy-layer ceiling”.

Despite revolutionizing the nation, why isn’t B P Mandal celebrated?

The oppressor-caste-dominated media had left no stone unturned to steer the opinion of the nation against the Mandal Commission and has hitherto deliberately excluded B P Mandal as the revolutionary figure of post-independence India. Despite B P Mandal bringing about a report which not only challenged but also changed the casteist status quo of the society; he has not been celebrated enough.

BP Mandal: The forgotten social reformer and leader of Indian politics
Image Source: National Herald

However, as a Bahujan leader who stood his ground despite unfavorable circumstances from umpteen directions, B P Mandal shall forever remain the architect who guided OBCs to voice out against injustice and to assert and take what is rightfully theirs — not with servility, but with assertion. To be the rightful representation of the fifty-two percent productive-marginalized population of India, exactly how the opening line of the Mandal Commission report states, “There is equality only among equals. To equate unequals is to perpetuate inequality.”

About the author(s)

Ankita Apurva was born with a pen and a sickle.

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