Patna, Sep 28 (IANS) Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi Sunday revealed that he is still treated as an “untouchable” by some “powerful people” as he is a poor Mahadalit, the most backward among the community.
“Even today, despite my being the chief minister, some powerful people treat me as untouchable because I am a Mahadalit,” Manjhi said at a function here.
He said some people washed idols of deities after he performed prayers and rituals in Madhubani district.
“I was specially invited by some people to participate in prayers and offer rituals at a function but a senior leader Ram Lakhan Ram informed me after my return that they washed the idols of the god and goddess and their home as I was an untouchable,” he narrated in anguish.
Manjhi, successor to Nitish Kumar who resigned after the Janata Dal-United’s lacklustre performance in the Lok Sabha polls, wondered if it was his fault to have been born in a poor scheduled caste family. “People still treat us as if it was a curse to be born in a Mahadalit family,” Manjhi said.
He said many people touch his feet to get their work done or take benefit from him but when it comes to social level, they still treat him as an untouchable.
“It is an insult to Mahadalits. It is an example of where we are now and what our mindset is all about,” he said.
Manjhi belong to the Musahar community that derives its name from the practice of eating rats after usually hunting for them in paddy fields.
An estimated 2.3 million Musahars live across Bihar in extremely poor condition. Less than five percent of them are literate and most of them make a living as labourers. They are still considered social untouchables despite a law against it.
The Mushahar community was upbeat after 68-year-old Manjhi, who began his life working as a shepherd for an upper caste farmer, became the new chief minister.
Manjhi earned his own livelihood and funded his own education. His father Ramjeet Ram Manjhi was a landless labourer.
He is the third Dalit to become chief minister after Bhola Paswan Shastri and Ram Sundar Das.