The story of Harijanistan

THE fascinating details of the journey from “Bhim Sena” to Lal Sena”; from demands for Harijinistan to the foundations of CPI(ML) in Bhojpur underscore the organic ties between the Dalit and Ambedkarite currents and the Marxist-Leninist ones.

Ara resident, former CPI(ML) State Secretary, and a leader of the Harijanistan movement Comrade Nandkishore Prasad says,

“Comrade Jagdish (Master Saheb), Prubhulal Paswan, Dhanilal Ram (both from Bahiro, Ara), Latafat Hussain (Ijri-Salempur, Ara), Chandrama Ram (Kathrai, Charpokhri), and Yugeshwar Sharma (Kasap, Udwantnagar) were the main people to start this movement on the issue of dalit oppression. Chief among these were Master Saheb and Dhanilal Ram. It was decided to start an agitation to demand ‘Harijanistan’. A meeting took place in Ara to discuss this, attended by all of us and 4 or 5 other people also. The demonstration started from Bahiro Lakh in Ara. People spoke about the miserable condition of dalits in Hindu society. During that phase, 2 or 3 issues of a newspaper ‘Mahamanav’ were also brought out. It used to be published by a Press near Jail Road. After 2 or 3 issues, it stopped being published. During this time, an organisation was also formed to demand ‘Harijanistan’.”

One of the leaders of the Harijanistan movement, Kasap village resident Yugeshwar Sharma throws fresh light on the movement, “We welcomed the news of the Naxalbari movement in 1967. On 10 November 1967, a huge rally was organised in Ara in support of the Naxalbari movement. A meeting was organised at the home of lawyer Vyasmuni Singh near the Jain School. Dhirja Thakur (Dawath, Rohtas), Ramakant Ram (Anaith, Ara), Kesho Chaudhary (Ekrasi, Buxar), Baban Tiwari (Rohtas), Ramesh Chandra Pandey Prabhulal Paswan and Dhanilal Ram (Ara) participated in the meeting. We first met Master Saheb in 1969. At that time he was living in Nawada mohalla. We used to run our office from a broken-down building in the lane opposite Nawada Thana where the Homeopathic College was located. This was in 1969-70. Kesho Chaudhary was made the convener of the CPI(ML).

"During this time, BK Azad had come to the village of Dhirja Thakur. He was a resident of Beguserai and was known by the name of Bilal Ahmed. He was also a member of the CPI(ML) State Committee. The idea of ‘Harijanistan’ was his suggestion, and we all liked it. We adopted Ambedkar’s slogan, ‘Organise, Educate, Agitate’ and campaigned from village to village. Our demand was that we should get our rightful share in the country, its land, and its resources.

“The demonstration to demand Harijanistan started from Bahiro Nahar (canal) on 14 April 1970. A four- page pamphlet was also printed. Poet Narayan Kavi was also part of the rally and spoke at the meeting organised at the Kachheri in Ara”.

During this time, land struggle started at Ijri-Salempur, the main village in the Ara-Badhara region known as the feudal fortress of the district. One of the main leaders of the Harijanistan movement Latafat Hussain says, “Unemployment and price rise were rampant all over the country. Social inequality and injustice were also at their peak. There was great anger among the youth of the country, especially in the oppressed classes. Master Saheb used to come to our Party (Sanyukt Socialist Party) office which was close to his school. It was there that I met him for the first time. There was pressure on me also from the feudal sections and the police. I was disillusioned with the Sanyukt Socialist Party. Master Saheb used his salary and some donations to run his office from a derelict building on Mill Road, Nawada. Campaigning was done in several villages in Ara Mofussil, including Piparhiya and Jameera. Meetings were organised at night. That day people started gathering at Bahiro from dawn onwards. At about 10.30 am the rally started. 8,000-10,000 people joined the rally. I used to be in hiding during those days, but I also addressed the meeting.

“During those days, a local paper named ‘Bhojpur Samachar’ used to be published. Prof. Shyammohan Asthana, associated with the RSS, was the Editor. This paper carried the news with a bold headline, ‘Ara town has become Calcutta city’. The newspapers ‘Aryavart’ and ‘Searchlight’ also published the news. After this, tension escalated in the city. Several pigs belonging to Musahar families in Anaith village were burnt. During the gherao to protest against this, I was also arrested and beaten up in the Thana”.

Gaurishankar tells us, “That was when we got the news of the conclusion of the 1st Party Congress of the CPI(ML) (22 April, 1970, Calcutta). We then called a meeting and decided to join the CPI(ML). BK Azad wanted to make a separate organisation. When Master Saheb and the rest of us decided to join the CPI(ML), he broke away.

Latafat Hussain tells us, “He (Master Saheb) was still teaching at the Jain School, but he had now got a group of people. Tyagi (Karath village), Prabhulal, Dhanilal, Narayan Kavi (Bahiro) were part of this group. Comrade Ramnaresh Ram had also left the CPIM. Master Saheb then resigned from the post of Science Teacher at the Jain School. He went underground and from there started a new chapter of the Naxalbari Movement from Ekvari in Bhojpur. Over a period of time this came to be known as the Bhojpur Movement.