The Nitish Kumar-led NDA Government has decided to include the Ravidas caste in its list of “Maha Dalits”.
This now leaves only the Dusadh (Paswan) caste out of the list of 22 of the most backward sub-castes identified by the Maha Dalit Commission.
The Commission was formed on August 30, 2007, under the chairmanship of Vishwanath Rishi to identify and integrate the most backward among the Dalits into the social mainstream. It submitted two interim reports in November 2007 and April 2008 suggesting that measures be taken for the uplift of the Maha Dalits.
The Commission, which earlier recommended inclusion of 18 of the 22 sub-castes as “Maha Dalits”, added the Pasi and Dhobi castes by the end of July, thus taking the tally to 20.
The four castes – Dusadh, Pasi, Dhobi and Chamar -- constitute 69 per cent of the State’s Dalit population of which the Ravidas and Dusadh (Paswan) castes account for 31.34 per cent and 30.88 per cent respectively.
Moreover, the Dusadh community is more literate among the other Scheduled Castes in the State with a literacy rate of 25.62 per cent.
Expectedly, this move has raised a storm among the supporters of Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, who view Mr. Kumar’s act as a means of eroding their vote base.
Speaking to The Hindu over phone, Mr. Paswan severely censured the move by terming it “unconstitutional” and alleged a “political conspiracy” on the part of Mr. Kumar to corner him.
LJP spokesperson Shailendra Pratap Singh said “all members in the Paswan community serving in the State Cabinet ought to resign in protest against this move”.
“This is a knee-jerk reaction after his [Nitish’s] jolt in the by-elections. He is now bent on extending his vote base by creating bifurcations within the Dalit fraternity,” said Mr. Paswan.
However, there are strong indications within the administration that the Paswans would soon be considered for “Maha Dalit” status.
Sources also said the move was not merely political but one with economic consequences as well.
Mr. Paswan said that the move was clearly aimed at “isolating the Paswans”. “He seems to have an allergy towards Ram Vilas Paswan. We will fight this matter on the streets and move the Supreme Court if need be,” he added.