After the Bihar government asked its jails to provide a caste-wise break-up of those jailed under the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Law, 2016, it has now sought details of the most populous castes within Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Economically Backward Classes (EBCs) and upper castes.
While the prisons department has directed jail superintendents, through an SMS, to undertake a caste survey of those booked under the liquor law, the home department has asked all jail superintendents in an internal WhatsApp group to give monthly details of top castes in each category.
In a four-part series, The Indian Express had reported the unofficial caste survey in jails to show how the state’s weakest and the most marginalised faced the brunt of the government’s prohibition crackdown. Their share of population in the eight central, 32 district and 17 sub-jails across Bihar, after they were arrested for violating prohibition Bihar seeks more caste data on those held under liquor laws since April 2016, far outstrips their share in the state’s population.
For instance, Scheduled Castes account for 27.1 per cent of arrests while their share in the population is 16 per cent. Scheduled Tribes make up 6.8 per cent of those arrested but form only 1.3 per cent of the population. And the OBC share is 34.4 per cent of the arrests and 25 per cent of Bihar’s population.
A WhatsApp message, sent by the prisons department to various internal WhatsApp groups on July 14, prescribes a clear format of how the caste break-up needs to be prepared. It showed that among SCs, the government has sought details of people under trial from among the Paswan, Ravidas, Manjhi, Mushahar, Dhobhi and Dom castes. These groups account for almost 13 per cent of the 16 per cent SC population in the state.
The new format also asks jail superintendents to provide a break-up of Yadavs, Koeris, Kurmis, Banias and Sonars from among OBCs. Among EBCs, it has sought the number of Mallahs (Kevat), Chandravanshis, Dhanuks, Binds, Beldars, Nonias, Julahahas/Ansaris (among Muslims) and Telis. Among upper castes, the prisons department has asked for the number of Rajputs, Brahmins, Bhumihars, Kayasthas and Sayeds and Shekhs (among Muslims). The new format asks superintendents to list them under two categories: those jailed for drinking and those for selling liquor.
A jail superintendent, who did not wish to be named, told The Sunday Express, “Though there is no official communication, we have got a WhatsApp message from the Inspectorate of Prisons seeking the number of people jailed from different castes. We have to submit a monthly report in written.”
A home department source said, “Now that the government has diluted the liquor law by relaxing several stringent provisions, the idea behind this is to probably know the social profile of drinkers.”
The Nitish Kumar-led government, which has a constituency among SCs and EBCs, has been wary because most of those affected by the liquor ban are from backward and marginalised sections.
The Indian Express investigation in May this year showed that about 88 per cent of those booked till February 2018 (about 1.25 lakh) were mostly EBCs and SCs.