Who is to shed tears on the death of a ‘Bihari’?

R.K. Sinha

The valleys of Kashmir are once more turning red with the blood of innocent people. There, from native Kashmiri chemist Makhan Lal Bindra to poverty-stricken Virendra Paswan, who came in search of work from Bhagalpur in Bihar, and two teachers were also gunned down. Apart from Paswan, the entire country is mourning the deaths of the innocent, but there is no one to cry on the death of Paswan except his family members or some close loved ones. Paswan, a resident of Bhagalpur in Bihar, fell victim to the bullets of terrorists. Virendra Paswan's last rites were performed at Dudhganga crematorium on the banks of the Jhelum. Read this senseless statement of Srinagar’s Mayor, Mr. Junaid Azim Mattoo, in which he is saying that "I am not going to Bhagalpur, I will reach out to his (Paswan) brother and other family members in Srinagar in order to express my condolences." What applaudable work Mattu Sahib has done. It’s shocking his conscience did not cease him while he made such insensitive statements. They were promising to meet Paswan's relatives who were residing in Srinagar, which is hardly likely if not a possibility at all. An ex-gratia amount of Rs.1.25 lakh has been given to Paswan's family members as compensation.

Virendra Paswan, a resident of Bhagalpur, often used to come to Kashmir during summers to earn a livelihood. He used to make and sell delicious gol gappas on a handcart in the Madinsahab, Lalbazar locality of Srinagar. The Islamic State of Jammu and Kashmir has claimed responsibility for his murder. But no human rights organization, or any party like the Congress, AAP, or SP-BSP, has so far demanded that any member of Paswan's family should be given a government job or he should also be showered with 50 lakhs like the rioters of Lakhimpur Kheri district in Uttar Pradesh. Is Rs.1.25 lakh adequate compensation to proffer to the family of the deceased (Paswan) who was killed by terrorists? The bitter truth is that there is never a nationwide uproar or upheaval in any part of the country when a citizen of Bihar is killed or humiliated. It is a pity that it is often forgotten that wherever a Bihari goes, he/she works diligently and assiduously.

Whether you travel to Jammu and Kashmir or take a round of the recently formed Union Territory of Ladakh, you will definitely find Bihari laborers engaged in construction work in remote areas, from Andaman to Lakshadweep, from Himachal to Arunachal. Biharis will also be found working in harsh weather conditions on the Leh-Kargil road and other under-construction projects. Some time ago a few of my friends had the opportunity to go to Leh. Despite being the peak summer season, it was getting quite cold there. The temperature was around 12 degrees even during the day. One can very well imagine the chill in the morning and evening! It is necessary to wear a sweater or a jacket during the day as well.

Despite these difficult conditions, you will find many Biharis, around Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. Their faces are always full of passion and they soon start accepting foreign places to be their own. Gurudwara Pathar Sahib is considered to be of great significance because Baba Nanak had once visited it. You will also see many Biharis working hard in Leh and its nearby hotels and markets. They keep hustling from morning till late evening. What is the point of attacking such innocent civilians? The terrorists who claim to be members of an Islamic organization are killing and murdering defenseless civilians. Now just take a look at the recent incidents in Kashmir, neither any Muslim leader nor human rights organizationa, nor the political leaders who preach about ‘Kashmiriyat’ address the increasing number of terror attacks and increase in the intensity of violence in the area. All these people should understand that just claiming that Islam is also a religion of peace will not work. They will have to prove this. They will have to deal with the fanatics of their religion.

However, Virendra Paswan had come to Kashmir from Bihar to simply earn a living. When the body of Virendra Paswan was found, his face was even covered with a mask. The deadly Coronavirus could not contaminate the body of Paswan, who travelled thousands of kilometers and came to Kashmir, but the bullets of the terrorists pierced his body. The Paswan family, Lalu Yadav's family, or anyone for that matter had no time to condemn or grieve Paswan's death. No Dalit leader, any intellectual or human rights person came forward. This is not the first time that a poor Bihari has been treated in a stepmotherly fashion in his own country. A few years ago in Manipur too, the incidents of assault on Biharis were on the rise.

Similarly, there have been attacks on Biharis in different parts of the country. If we talk about Assam, then there is a role of Ulfa terrorists behind these attacks. In fact, whenever Ulfa has to demonstrate its power in front of the center, it starts targeting innocent Hindi-speaking people of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh particularly. In the two northeastern states of Assam and Manipur respectively, Hindi-speaking people have been killed for ages. These Hindi-speaking people have been inhabitants of the Northeast for centuries. The population of Hindi-speaking people in Assam and Manipur is in lakhs, now they speak in Assamese and Manipuri only. They have completely adapted to those states. In a way, only their emotional connection with the states of their forefathers is left. Late Sheila Dixit, during her Chief Ministership in Delhi, had once held the people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar responsible for the problems of the capital. In 200, Sheila Dikshit had said that Delhi is a prosperous state and a large number of people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh come there to live and settle down. Due to this, it was becoming an arduous task to provide basic facilities in the capital. The question is whether Biharis are not free to live and earn in any part of the country. Now, the current Chief Minister, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal has started preaching the same message.

Bihar can now be considered the center of knowledge in the country. Mahavir, Buddha, and one of the first four Shankaracharya (Mandan Mishra), and even India's first President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad hailed from the state of Bihar. The hunger and desire for knowledge are inherent in every Bihari. Bharat is a sacred word for Biharis. They consider the entirety of India to be their own. They have recognised leaders varying from Madhu Limaye, Acharya Kripalani to George Fernandes as their own and have elected them to the Lok Sabha from Bihar. Will a Bihari be beaten up like this in any part of India?

(The author is a senior editor, columnist, and former MP)