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Caste divisions in 2017
For students of modern Indian history, especially the national movement, some places are hardwired in memory -Champaran, Wardha, Dandi.Chauri Chaura, a market town 25km from Gorakhpur in east UP, belongs to that list.
On February 4, 1922, volunteers, protesting against taadi (palm juice toddy) drinking, meat and high food prices, were fired upon by police. In reaction, they torched the Chauri Chaura police station, 23 died, most of them policemen. The incident prompted Mahatma Gandhi to withdraw the Non-Cooperation Movement. In the subsequent repression, 19 protestors were hanged, 14 jailed for life.
Ninety-five years later, that event remains Chauri Chaura's badge of recognition. But in 2012, it got a new identity in India's electoral politics. It was declared an assembly seat. BSP's Jay Prakash (Nishad) became its first MLA; SP fi nished second by 20,000 votes, BJP ended third. Locals now say they have hardly seen Jay Prakash. The OBC BSP man made news in 2013 when he thrashed a UP Roadways bus driver who accidentally grazed his vehicle. The drivers went on a fl ash strike. Nishad is once again in the hunt and stands to gain from the changing and chopping of candidates in SP. Early last year, SP named Keshav Nath Yadav as the candidate here. Last November, they dumped him for Durgesh Yadav . Then, in January, Manurojan Yadav was picked after Akhilesh Yadav took control of the party.
These alterations caused “heartburn“ and sent the message: SP isn't sure who it wants. Worse, BJP named Sangeeta Yadav, who could divide the Yadav vote.
But the BSP candidate faces another hurdle. Nishad, Pasi, Yadav and Brahmins are important groups in this agriculture-driven area. Nishads are traditionally in river-based professions with fellow caste men Mallahs and Kewats. They've mobilised under Sanjay Nishad's leadership, whose party is called the Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal. Nishad's outfit is with the Peace Party , which won four seats in 2012.
Talking about the main issue here, Ravidra Narayan, a school teacher, says, “Casteism dominates UP . Everyone seeks votes in the name of caste.“ Going through the surnames inscribed on the Chauri Chaura martyrs' memorial -Kewat, Kahar, Chamar, Ahir, Julaha, Muhammed, Ali, Tiwary , Mishra -one wonders how it was all those years ago.