“In the year 1946, the British Government had proposed for the election of members to the Constituent Assembly of India by the members of the Provincial Assemblies. Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar came to Calcutta to seek the support of the European members of the Bengal Legislative Assembly. But when the European members expressed their decision not to participate in the election, Babasaheb became dejected and told me there was no chance for him to be elected to the Constituent Assembly. I then took up his cause and assured him of my utmost efforts to get him elected from Bengal…Stiff opposition came from the Congress side. However, Dr. Ambedkar was elected with the highest number of votes,” wrote Jogendra Nath Mandal.
Born on 29th January 1904 in a farming-based Namashudra (formerly named Chandal) family in the Maostarkandi village falling in the Barisal district of undivided Bengal — which is now in Bangladesh, Jogendra Nath Mandal was a diligent student since his nascent years. With his resilient assiduousness to study no matter what, Jogendra Nath Mandal passed his initial education in the First Class, then after graduating in 1929, took admission in law. Post the completion of his law degree in 1934, Jogendra Nath Mandal decided not to take up law practice or a job. Instead, he commenced his vociferous retaliation against the unjust and oppressive societal structure which had hitherto humiliated his community and unabashedly continues to do so.
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A selfless human, an assertive leader
A man of acute intellect and pragmatic perspectives, Jogendra Nath Mandal dedicated his entire life toiling for the betterment of society. Yet, his trials and tribulations have not been recorded, let alone celebrated, enough in the so-called “mainstream” and the self-proclaimed “casteless” media. In order to obtain an accurate outlook of this legend, it is paramount to comprehend him with respect to the times in which he lived, and the society against which he resisted.
As an assertive individual with both the lived experience as an oppressed as well as education which helped him lead, Jogendra Nath Mandal understood the multitudinous circumstances that his community had been systemically engulfed in due to the actions of the oppressor castes. Hence, he united the oppressed across myriad communities and led them in the contention for their rights.
While he could not contest the 1932 elections announced by the British government, Jogendra Nath Mandal’s political career began in 1937 when he defeated Congress’s Sarkal Kumar Dutt as an independent candidate on a general seat. The next year, he founded the Independent Scheduled Caste Party with 20 SC MLAs. The party had put across certain demands for the upliftment of the SC community including waiving off farmer loans, complete prohibition on liquor, and reservation for SCs in government jobs.
However, when the demands weren’t met, Jogendra Nath Mandal separated from the ruling party and joined the opposition. Over the years, his relentless endeavors to obtain the rights of the oppressed made him a prominent leader. In 1943, when Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Fazizul Haq had asked for Jogendra Nath Mandal’s support to save their government, he had put forward certain demands such as the representation of SCs in the ministry and the administration, as well as affirmative action for SC students in education and employment, however, these demands weren’t met and Jogendra Nath Mandal extended his support to the Muslim League who accepted his proposal.
Jogendra Nath Mandal became a minister in the government along with his SC counterparts, and under his guidance, the Udaar Hostel was constructed in the Nirmal Chandra Street in Kolkata. Jogendra Nath Mandal held many more imminent posts and portfolios in multiple governments. While he continuously labored to empower his community, one of his salient works was how he utilized his legal background to dissect the Bengal Tenancy Bill.
Paved the way for Dr. Ambedkar to reach the parliament
As per Jogendra Nath Mandal’s invitation, Dr. Ambedkar fought the election from the Jessore-Khulna constituency in eastern Bengal. Amidst preposterous hatred and heinous propaganda to hinder Dr. Ambedkar from reaching the Constituent Assembly, it was Jogendra Nath Mandal who was the pioneer in helping Dr. Ambedkar get elected from Bengal. Inundated with manufactured tension, grotesque lawlessness, and casteist impediments, Dr. Ambedkar’s election was a new chapter of history. So insecure were casteist elements that they even illegally confined a supporting MLA of Dr. Ambedkar. The self-proclaimed “intellectuals” of Bengal despised Dr. Ambedkar because their English education couldn’t radicalise their “Bhodrolok” upbringing. However, in a brilliant manifestation of political profundity, and owing to the extensive campaigning and endeavors of the Scheduled Castes and the Backward Classes, Dr. Ambedkar won the election by the greatest majority, and could finally join the Constituent Assembly. Through all of this, Dr. Ambedkar again shone as the leader of all, performing the unassailable task of winning a seat far away from his home province.
Dr. Ambedkar and Jogendra Nath Mandal’s mutual faith and admiration need to be documented as well. For after establishing the All India Scheduled Caste Federation (AISCF), Dr. Ambedkar had deputed Jogendra Nath Mandal as the head of the Bengal Scheduled Caste Federation (BSCF). In 1946, Jogendra Nath Mandal had fought and successfully won on a BSCF ticket.
Furthermore, Jogendra Nath Mandal had a pivotal role in the framing of the Constitution; for, given Mandal’s law erudition, Dr. Ambedkar asked for his advice through letters on umpteen imperative aspects related to the forming of the Constitution.
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First Law Minister of Pakistan
Post-partition, when Jogendra Nath Mandal did not receive support from oppressor caste leaders in India, he left for Pakistan hoping for justice for the Scheduled Castes and joined as the Law Minister of Pakistan. However, in the aftermath of the riots, people across several communities and especially the Scheduled Castes, faced heinous brutality. In such a travesty, he resigned on 8th October 1950, returned to West Bengal and commenced working for Dr. Ambedkar’s Republican Party. He passed away on 5th October 1968.
Jogendra Nath Mandal dedicated his entire life to the cause of the oppressed and fought for their rightful representation across politics, education, employment, judiciary, economy, and umpteen domains. While doing so, he faced numerous death threats and attacks on himself too. However, rightful representation has yet not become the right of the oppressed given how the oppressors manufacture every plausible weapon to negate the upliftment of the oppressed. It is in these circumstances that one must read the journey of this man who fought and fought it all.
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