Bagoder (Giridih): Sixty-five-year old Dharmi Devi, resident of Malhutand village, Jamua has travelled 85 kilometers to make it to this annual gathering in Bagoder. “I have been coming every year to participate, right from 2005,” said Dharmi.
On being asked, why travel this huge a distance every year, in this cold? Even before Dharmi could reply, her companion, Shanti Devi retorts, “Mahendra Singh is dead. But that doesn’t do away what he has done for us. We shall always be indebted to him. When he was alive, we didn’t have to face any kind of harassment to get our work done in block office. We never had to grease the palms of the police. His name was enough to get them do their duty.”
But he was not the MLA of Jamua assembly segment? “He was a leader and frequently visit us. His name was enough to get our work done,” adds Shanti. It‘s not just the duo, from Malhutand who participated in the day-long 14th Martyr Day celebration of Mahendra Singh at Bagoder Bus Stand Market, around 100 from her their villager had also travelled.
It was not only the elderly ladies but woman of every age were present in the 20,000 strong and disciplined crowd. For those new to Bagoder, such an admiration for a leader slain 14 years back, might seem a bit odd but not for the people of this region.
Bagoder Bus Stand Market, where the event was hosted, had come to existence because of Mahendra Singh only. When National Highway (NH-2)’s expansion was taking place, a large number of roadside shopkeepers and venders were to displace. Mahendra Singh, intervened and told the company to built a market for them. Thirty shops were constructed, which were commissioned to the shopkeepers through lottery.
Mahendra began his political career on a dramatic note. An activist since the beginning of his career, he had been implicated in false murder case. He was even given a life term sentence. However, the case was quashed in High Court. But Mahendra Singh during his jail term began an agitation over the implementation of jail manual. After coming out from jail, he fought election, but lost. In 1990, he again fought and won and represented Bagoder in Bihar and Jharkhand assemblies till his last breath.
For thirty years, no Panchayat Election was held in Jharkhand, but it was not so in Mahendra’s village Khambhra.
“Since 1978, a Gram Sabha had been functioning in the village. Later Mahendra became a legislator. He even conducted parallel panchayat polls in many villages to run the gram shabhas. He had also recommended the names of elected representatives to administration seeking their rights. Obviously, the request had been turned down. Astonishingly, in the past 40 years, no single case has been registered with the local police station from Khambhra. Earlier Mahendra Singh and now Vinod Singh, with the help of Gram Sabha solves all the issues and differences within the community,” says, Amit Raja, a political analyst to eNewsroom.
“You should check out the community Hall there. It has facilities at par with deluxe hotel, but is was constructed at the half expenditure than other community centers in Jharkhand,” adds Raja.
“Mahendra ji was always of the opinion that leaders should be staying in the village. He believed, if we wins on the votes of villagers, then we can very well stay there only,” Vinod Singh, who won twice after his father’s assassination.
“Mahendra had led many protests and movements, both in United Bihar and Jharkhand. Be it Markachcho, Koyalkaro or Telodih, he was known for standing for people’s right,” says, Laxmi, a senior journalist.
After the assassination of the three times MLA on January 16, 2005, the case was handed over to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). But India’s premier investigation agency could not reach on a conclusion on the political murder of a mass leader.
“He was not an opposition party leader, but he was strongest opposition voice. He also never took any gifts in any assembly functions and had always opposed salary hike for MLAs,” informs Kamal Chaparia, senior journalist.
This year, unlike others, a healthy number of youths representing All India Student Association (AISA) and Youth Revolutionary Association (YRA), and teenage girls were present too. CPI-ML national General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, former MLA and son Vinod Singh and two MLAs Raj Kumar Yadav of CPI-ML and Arup Chattarjee of MSS were present along with several other party leaders in the function.
During the event, the one slogan which has been chanted over the years, can be heard this time also by his party supporters and admirers was, “Mahendra Singh Tum Zinda Ho, Khaito Aur Khalihano Mei, Janata Ke Armano Mei (Mahendra Singh, you are alive in the fields, grounds, and in the minds of people).”