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Who is Bharat Ratna Karpoori Thakur, beacon of social justice?

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Who is Bharat Ratna Karpoori Thakur, beacon of social justice?
Who is Bharat Ratna Karpoori Thakur, beacon of social justice?

Bharat Ratna, the very best civilian award of India, has been conferred on “Jan Nayak” Karpoori Thakur. His identify could be acquainted to many at the moment, however the particulars of his life much less so.

Who is Bharat Ratna Karpoori Thakur, beacon of social justice?
“Jan Nayak” Karpoori Thakur, two-time chief minister of Bihar and a champion of backward lessons, is named for posthumous Bharat Ratna in his delivery centenary yr. Photo courtesy: X/@narendramodi

On January 23, 2024, a day earlier than the delivery centenary of Karpoori Thakur, a put up on X by Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi mentioned: “I’m delighted that the Government of India has determined to confer the Bharat Ratna on the beacon of social justice, the good Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur Ji and that, too, at a time once we are marking his delivery centenary. This prestigious recognition is a testomony to his enduring efforts as a champion for the marginalised and a stalwart of equality and empowerment.

“His unwavering dedication to uplift the downtrodden and his visionary management have left an indelible mark on India’s socio-political material. This award not solely honours his exceptional contributions but additionally conjures up us to proceed his mission of making a extra simply and equitable society.”

Hailing from what was then the extraordinarily backward class “Nai” (barber), Thakur was born on January 24, 1924, in an impoverished household in Samastipur district within the japanese Indian state of Bihar. He went on to make large strides in politics that earned him the epithet “Jan Nayak (People’s Leader)”.

A journalist’s reminiscence of Karpoori Thakur

In a first-person account written for Press Trust of India, veteran journalist Samir Kumar Mishra remembers the greatness and humility that co-existed in Karpoori Thakur.

One of essentially the most articulate leaders of the socialist college

Meeting Karpoori Thakur, the twice chief minister of a risky state like Bihar, the place he was reviled and revered in equal measure, was all the time simple for me and anyone who sought his viewers.

That he has been chosen for the nation’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, comes as a bit of shock to me, as it could to even his most ardent admirers.

The “Jan Nayak” joins the pantheon of nice political leaders like Lal Bahadur Shastri, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi, and Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan, who have been honoured with the award posthumously.

As a faculty scholar, I had seen him frequent the sprawling home of Jayaprakash Narayan on the slim Jagat Narayan Lal Road within the as soon as posh locality of the Bihar capital (Patna) in Kadam Kuan.

When I joined PTI in 1986, he was the Leader of the Opposition.

He had, by then, been the chief minister of Bihar twice within the Nineteen Seventies, however had no qualms about hiring a cycle-rickshaw to move him to the workplaces of information organisations, notably PTI.

SK Ghosh, fondly referred to as Mantu-da, the amiable and ebullient bureau chief, was his buddy. Mantu-da had died after I first noticed Thakur — one of essentially the most articulate leaders of the socialist college I can bear in mind — arrive in our workplace on a cycle-rickshaw. SD Narayan was then the chief of bureau.

Thakur would enter the newsroom alone, as quietly as he may, together with his rubber-soled sandals aiding him within the endeavour, and sit unobtrusively on the recliner Mantu-da had ordered for himself.

He would then request us for a chunk of paper on which he wrote his press releases, and go away as quietly as he got here.

Surendra Kishore, a veteran journalist who was as soon as Thakur’s personal secretary, says that Thakur, who died aged 65 on February 17, 1988, by no means constructed a home for himself.

Fountainhead of OBC politics in Bihar

Thakur, thought of the fountainhead of OBC (Other Backward Classes) politics in Bihar, was a foodie and cherished the steaming sizzling balushahi and laddu ready on the state meeting canteen. He would usually pester his journalist friends to have some extra.

Thakur’s personal secretary Abdul Bari Siddiqui, his Man Friday, advised us Thakurji was pleased when his friends had their fill of the meals he provided.

Siddiqui rose to turn out to be a minister and the state president of (later Bihar chief minister) Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.

Sharad Yadav, a socialist stalwart and mentor to many a frontrunner like Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, was like a disciple.

On a chilly January night, after I visited Thakur, he had a nasty cough. Wrapped in blankets within the portico of his bungalow, he sipped on kadha, a concoction created from tulsi (basil) and black pepper, to appease his sore throat. He had three of these in large stainless-steel tumblers whereas Yadav and I waited for him to talk.

He spoke nicely and spoke loud in regards to the rights of the backward lessons (OBCs) a lot earlier than Vishwanath Pratap Singh used the Mandal Commission report as a software to thwart (BJP chief) LK Advani’s Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya to revive the Ram Temple motion.

Quotas for backward lessons launched in Bihar in 1978

Thakur’s tenure as Bihar chief minister is greatest remembered for implementation of the suggestions of the Mungeri Lal Commission, whereby quotas for backward lessons have been launched within the state in 1978.

This panel was the forerunner of the Mandal Commission. Both Mungeri Lal and BP Mandal have been from Bihar, which has a protracted historical past of socialist struggles.

A spotlight of the Mungeri Lal Commission report was a separate sub-category referred to as Most Backward Classes, which offered the template for the ati pichhda (extraordinarily backward) plank constructed by (Bihar politician) Nitish Kumar years later. It additionally had a 3 per cent quota for girls and three per cent for the economically backward amongst higher castes.

Thakur ushered in 26 per cent reservation in authorities companies and academic establishments in Bihar in November 1978.

This was 12 years earlier than the VP Singh authorities dusted off the Mandal Commission report and introduced its implementation, offering these against the “Kamandal Politics” of the BJP a weapon and a trigger to struggle for.

The deeply entrenched higher castes in Bihar responded with rage. There have been protests throughout and Thakur confronted casteist slurs. “Karpoori kar poora, chhod gaddi pakad ustra (Karpoori, do your work; go away the seat of energy and choose up the razor),” was one amongst a large number of slogans that focused his nai (barber) caste, whose software of work is ustra (the razor).

Congress welcomes Bharat Ratna for Karpoori Thakur

India’s oldest political get together, the Congress, welcomed the choice to confer Bharat Ratna on Karpoori Thakur. However, get together chief Rahul Gandhi asserted {that a} caste census could be a real tribute to the socialist chief because the nation now wanted “actual justice” and never “politics of symbolism”.

In a put up in Hindi on X, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge mentioned: “The pioneer of social justice and public chief late Karpoori Thakur ji not solely fought constantly for social justice but additionally performed a decisive function in it. Humble tributes to him on the event of his delivery centenary.”

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