Pavan S Khadse
March 05, 2019 was a historical & revolutionary day for Bahujans because, for the first time in the country’s history a unity was noticed amongst Bahujans beyond political motives. When I am using the term ‘Bahujan’, it includes SC/ST/OBC and converted religious minorities. Bahujan have always revolted against the brahmanical ideology and their malpractices. But in the last many years unity was the missing thing in the Bahujan movement but the Bharat Bandh of 5th March was a great attempt in that direction as it was supported by various student organizations, political parties and organizations working for the Bahujan interests.
Central issues against which the Bharat Bandh was called, are as follows :
- 13 point roster judgement from the Supreme Court which was against the interests of SC/ST/OBCs.
- Jan 13 Supreme Court order for eviction of lakhs of Adivasis and Forest Dwellers across the country.
- Passage of the 124th amendment bill by Parliament for the benefit of economically weaker sections among non-reserved categories.
On 29th Jan 2019, a meeting was held at Delhi which was attended by social activists, academicians and students. In the meeting, one common agenda was formulated/decided for 5th March Bharat Bandh. A committee named ‘Samvidhan Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (SBSS)’ was formed. Notable people who had actively participated in the protest were Waman Meshram (BAMCEF), Prof. Ratan Lal, Prof. Sandip Yadav, Prof. Suraj Mandal, Ex-MP Ali Anwar Ansari, Dilip Mandal, Anil Jayhind, Urmilesh and later Tejaswi Yadav also joined it.
Teachers’ organisations like DUTA & PROTON and student organisations like Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Associaton (BAPSA), Bhartiya Vidyarthi Morcha (BVM), RJD Chhatra Sangh, ASA (HCU), BSF (HCU) supported this protest. Social organisations like BAMCEF, Bharat Mukti Morcha, Adivasi Adhikar Andolan, Bhim Army (Bihar) and political organisations are Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD), Bahujan Mukti Party (BMP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Janta Congress Chhatisgarh (JCC), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) were also involved. Then tribal organisations and groups across different states also came forward and joined the bandh.
Issues of Bharat Bandh
1) Against the implementation of the 13 Point Roster system by eliminating the 200 Point Roster system which is a conspiracy against SC/ST/OBCs to end their faculty representation from Central Universities.
2) Against the decision of the Supreme Court for eviction of 1 million Tribals from their land and forest as well as the non-implementation of safegurads for Tribals provided under the fifth and sixth schedules of constitution.
3) Against the anti-constitutional 10% EWS reservation for the upper castes.
4) To publish caste based census report – Reservation should be given to castes proportionate to their population.
5) To legislate communal violence prevention act for the safety of religious minorities like Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists.
6) Against the privatisation of Government sector. Stop Privatisation!
7) For proper implementation of the Supreme Court Judgment in Subramanian Swamy vs ECI regarding counting of VVPAT slips to ensure free and fair election.
Under the banner of SBSS protests were planned in four phases. 1st phase involved one day district level protest on 27th Jan 2019. In 2nd phase they organised one day tahsil level protest which was on 3rd Feb 2019. 3rd phase was on 17 Feb 2019 with one day block level protests and the last phase was the Bharat Bandh of 5th March. These phases made the environment warm for a successful Bharat Bandh. All the leaders mentioned above worked hard on the ground as well as on Social Media for a successful bandh. With support of the different organizations spread across states the effect of the bandh was seen in UP, Bihar, Odisha, MP, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat from morning around 10:00 Am. During afternoon, most of the North Indian areas participated in the bandh.
The media failed to perform its duty and did not do proper reporting of the bandh. All the TV-news channels refrained from reporting any kind of news related to bandh. Some newspaper and web portals reported the news but ended up doing limited coverage. Some of the print media published the news where they mentioned that the bandh saw participation of Scheduled Castes and Tribal Organizations only but that the bandh was inclusive of people from different religions and castes. The OBCs and Muslims participated in large number which is evident from the list of organisation already mentioned.
The day before the bandh the trending hashtag on twitter was #5marchbharatbandh but media which generally reports such hashtags, had not reported this one. Next day, some media reports associated the whole protest with Tribal displacement issue and 13 point roster system but that were not the only issues raised in the bandh. Media tried to hide other issues like EWS reservation issue, EVM safeguards issue, Minority protection act, Caste census etc. The corrupt media did not dare to show issues which would create problems for the political and social ruling class.
As a result of the Bandh, on 5th March, Prakash Javadekar (Human Resource Development Minister of India) released a statement that ‘Government will bring ordinance for 13 point roster’. On 7th March the cabinet approved ordinance. It shows the strong impact the Bharat bandh of 5th March had on the government. The coming Loksabha elction also would had compelled them to bring ordinance. Here two thing are to be noted. First, the government had just brought ordinance and not law. Secondly it had ignored the other demands which were raised in protest.
University students seems happy as government agreed on roster issue but non-university community who stood against issues of EWS, EVMs, Tribal displacement, Caste census and Minority act are not satisfied with the limited government response. Professors and student community should hold this thing in mind before celebrating their success that this protest is the result of a common minimum program formed with the help of many Bahujan organizations and the government had just reacted on the issue, otherwise the government does not even care to react.
Government has tricked the public. It knows that all the unfulfilled issues are very dangerous to their interest. It seems that government and media had acted with mutual understanding in silencing the pertinent issues.
I observed that in South India there are only two states like Karnataka and Telangana which had participated in the bandh protesting at limited places. BSF and ASA (HCU) had released a statement about Bharat Bandh. It was lack of communication between South Indian and North Indian groups due to which less participation was seen in the South.
I observed that the University students were more concerned with the roster but not so much with the other issues of community interest. This is not a good practice on the part of the students. Some political leader had just made tweets as their contribution but this contribution is not sufficient. I think, they should have come on the ground to stand with us.
Bahujans came up with a common set of demands and worked with unity. This is definitely a victory for them. Hope all protesters will persist with demands on the other six issues which are still not addressed.
Pavan S Khadse is a student of Political science (Hon.) at Pondicherry Central University.