Caste triumphs over other identities among Dalit and Lower Castes of Laxmanpur Bathe

Rajan Jha for,

Laxmanpur Bathe: Many political commentators have contended that development would be the key issue in Bihar elections. However, a field visit of Laxmanpur Bathe, a small village in Arwal district where 58 Dalits and lower castes were allegedly killed by upper caste Bhumihar militia Ranvir Sena in 1997, shows that caste identity is not only stronger but prevails over other identities.

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The fight in Arwal constituency is expected to be among BJP’s Bhumihar candidate Chitranjan Kumar, RJD’s Kushwaha candidate Ravindra Singh and CPI (ML)’s Kushwaha candidate Mahanand Prasad.

Caste triumphs over other identities among Dalit and Lower Castes of Laxmanpur Bathe

The population of Bathe village is around 2,200. According to Bhuwneshwar Ram, 50, the population of Ravidasi, Paswaan, Rajbanshi, Baithas and Pasi in Bathe village is around 350, 150, 150, 20 and 10 respectively. Besides, there are other backward castes in the village such as Mallahs.

Mrityunjay Kumar, a Ravidasi Dalit, whose relatives were killed in the massacre about his choice of his party and candidate, said that he would vote for Nitish. Bhuneshwar Ram, another Ravidasi also said he would also support the Mahagathbandhan.

Saheb Sharan, a Ravidasi and CPI-ML supporter said, “it is unfortunate that one casts votes on the basis of caste (Jati). The poor people (gharib ghurba) due to lack of education do not differentiate who their friend and enemies are.”

However, Vijay Chaudhary was less hopeful of the upcoming elections. “Candidates after candidates have made promises that if they win they would bring electricity in the village, but nothing has been done,” he said. He however, did not indicate that he would boycott the election.

Lal Mohan Paswan, who runs a small egg-shop, was very clear about his choice. “I would vote for BJP because our leader Raam Vilas Paswan is with BJP,’ he said.

Sikender Chaudhary, a Mallah who lost his wife and two children in the massacre said he would vote for BJP, “because Mukesh Sahni is with the party.”

After spending two-and-a-half hours in Bathe, it emerged that Ravidasi (Chamaar) were largely supporting the grand Alliance while Paswaan (Dushadh) are strongly backing up the BJP-led NDA. Other sub castes such Dalits such as Rajbanshi and Baitha (Dhobi) were unlikely to stick to one party.


(Rajan Jha is pursing PhD at School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He may be contacted at [email protected])