PATNA: In signs that caste divisions and demands for caste-based reservation may further impact Bihar politics, the state’s EBC communities on Sunday asserted their political aspirations at a rally organised here by their leader Mukesh Sahni and demanded immediate reservations for the Nishads.
“The Nishad community in Bihar has the power to change the shape of government in the state. All those who oppose this community’s demand for reservation will fall by the wayside in Bihar’s politics in the coming polls,” said Sahni, the founder and national president of Nishad Vikas Sangh (NVS).
Nearly 6,000 people belonging to the EBC Nishad castes from across Bihar attended the rally at Sri Krishna Memorial Hall and vowed to keep up the struggle till their castes are granted reservation facilities as Scheduled Tribes (ST). Sahni, 37, who has popularised himself as the “Son of Mallah,” said the present time looks ripe for the Nishads being accorded reservation facility and that the community would support whichever party promises and facilitates it.
The Nishads, traditionally boatmen, are a group of over 20 sub-castes whose livelihood has been linked to the river. They are wooed by every political party during elections. Sahni claims to have brought all these sub-castes of about 1.75 crore people in Bihar under one organisation, VKS. The EBCs constitute about 30 per cent of Bihar’s population.
Sahni was among BJP’s star campaigners in Bihar during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls as the party had agreed to his main demand for granting ST status for the Nishads. His efforts helped BJP and its allies gain votes in north Bihar, where the Nishads abound, but the party’s indifference led him to CM Nitish Kumar’s party during the 2015 Assembly polls.
Just before the Assembly polls, Kumar had recommended to the Centre that two prominent EBC groups, Sahni and Nonia, be accorded ST category, but the recommendations are still waiting action by the Centre.
“When the Nishads have got reservation in West Bengal, Odisha and Delhi, why not in Bihar? If the benefits of reservation are not extended to the community in the next six months, we will form a new party at a massive rally at Gandhi Maidan,” said Sahni, who has been a well-known figure in Bollywood for designing the sets of several blockbusters such as Devdas and Bajrangi Bhaijaan before entering politics in 2015.