Temple cleaned after visit, reiterates Bihar CM | india | Hindustan Times
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Temple cleaned after visit, reiterates Bihar CM

Bihar Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Monday reiterated his stunning, if disputed, claim that he was treated as an ‘untouchable’ even after he assumed the high office he holds.

india Updated: Sep 29, 2014 19:09 IST
Rai Atul Krishna
Jitan Ram Manjhi

Bihar Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Monday reiterated his stunning, if disputed, claim that he was treated as an ‘untouchable’ even after he assumed the high office he holds.

Manjhi had said a temple in Madhubani (north Bihar) he visited (on August 18) in the run up to the August 21 Bihar assembly bypolls, “was cleaned and the idol washed”, after he left the place, as he was a dalit.

“I did not see this happen. But I was informed of this happening later by Ramlakhan Ram Raman (mines and geology minister and a fellow dalit)”, the chief minister had said on Sunday at a gathering.

Raman denied saying anything of the kind to Manjhi. “My name has been wrongly dragged into the matter”, Raman, told reporters seeking confirmation of the alleged incident.

But the chief minister held his ground. “Raman narrated the temple washing incident twice. I don’t know why he is denying it now”, Manjhi told reporters. “Even (former MP and RJD leader) Devendra Prasad Yadav told me the incident happened”, he added.

As such, the chief minister said, he had directed the Darbhanga divisional commissioner and zonal inspector general of police to investigate the matter and submit a report about the incident.

Bihar JD (U) president Bashistha Narayan Singh condemned the incident and said the ruling party was inquiring into the matter at its own level. “Those found guilty will be punished but let’s not drag this matter”, he said, apparently embarrassed by the turn of events.

The BJP, Bihar’s principal opposition party, said the chief minister’s claim he was treated as an untouchable was an attempt to assert his dalit identity to counter the widespread impression he was a stopgap chief minister.

“Manjhi is pitching for dalit consolidation of the kind seen in Uttar Pradesh, under the leadership of BSP leader Mayawati. He is looking to create a separate dalit constituency Bihar has never had”, said Bihar BJP chief Mangal Pandey.

He claimed Manjhi was upset about the impression that he was selected to be chief minister because his party, the JD (U), had suffered a stunning defeat in the Lok Sabha poll and wanted a dalit face at the helm but only till the assembly poll next year.

Interestingly, Manjhi himself said so at a function organised in the memory of late Bhola Paswan Shastri, Bihar’s first dalit chief minister. Manjhi is the third dalit leader to hold the high post, JD (U) leader Ram Sunder Das being the second.

“I am chief minister for only next 10 months”, Manjhi said, indicating he would have to make way for a successor at the time of the next Bihar assembly election, due in October 2015, or immediately after it.

Manjhi, who took charge in May after the then chief minister Nitish Kumar put in his paper after his party’s ‘two seats out of Bihar’s 40’ Lok Sabha poll show, left none in doubt he saw dalit unity as the way forward for himself.

“If all dalits come together, Bihar can have a dalit chief minister even after the assembly poll”, he told the gathering.

Manjhi also said people who came to him for some work felt no qualms about falling at his feet . “This is the world we live in”, he stated.

Interestingly, leaders of the chief minister’s own party remained emphatic in denying that the temple incident in reference had taken place.

“No such incident took place. The CM has been wrongly informed. I can vouch for the fact that the people were very respectful towards him and happy he visited the temple”, said JD (U) MLC Vinod Kumar Singh, who is from Madhubani and had hosted the CM.

Recalling Manjhi’s election campaign trip in August, Singh said the chief minister had lunch at his (Singh’s) Jhanjharpur residence and stopped at the Parmeshwari temple at Rudrapur on the request of the locals.

“I was present there during and after the CM’s temple visit and there was absolutely no question of the idol being washed or the temple premises being cleaned”, the JD (U) MLC told HT.

Even rural development minister Nitish Mishra, who was also present when Manjhi’s temple visit took place, said the chief minister had been wrongly informed about his temple visit aftermath.

“The idol at the Parmeshwari temple is made of clay. If it is washed, the idol of the deity will disintegrate”, Mishra stated.

Bihar has some history of dalits being debarred from visiting temples. For instance, a dalit woman was allegedly beaten up in July 2012 after she entered a temple in north Bihar’s Begusarai district.

On the flip side, Chandeshwar Paswan, a Sanskrit scholar, was appointed Bihar’s first Dalit priest of the famous Vishwanath Mahadev Mandir at Hajipur in May 2006.

In 2007, the Bihar State Board of Religious Trusts (BSBRT) appointed another Dalit, Jamuna Das, as a priest in the Shiva temple at Bihta on January 14, the Makarsankranti Day.

Phalhari Suryavanshi Das, a Dalit scholar, from Ravi Das temple in Ayodhya was appointed as a priest at ‘Mahavir sthan’, Patna’s most famous Hanuman temple, near the Patna junction railway station.

Yet another Dalit from Mushahar community (lowest strata of the society) Janardan Manjhi, was appointed priest of the 300-year- at Hajipur.

In 2007, the Bihar State Board of Religious Trusts (BSBRT) appointed another Dalit, Jamuna Das, as a priest in the Shiva temple at Bihta on January 14, the Makarsankranti Day.

Phalhari Suryavanshi Das, a Dalit scholar, from Ravi Das temple in Ayodhya was appointed as a priest at ‘Mahavir sthan’, Patna’s most famous Hanuman temple, near the Patna junction railway station.

Yet another Dalit from Mushahar community (lowest strata of the society) Janardan Manjhi, was appointed priest of the 300-year-old Ram Janaki temple at Paliganj in June 2007.