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Monday, November 23, 2020

Explained: Who are Mahadalits?

More recently, Lok Janshakti Party president and Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan has accused Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of harming the Dalit community by creating the Mahadalit category.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi, Patna | October 20, 2020 11:09:39 am
Bihar elections, Bihar polls, Mahadalits, Who are Mahadalits, Mahadalits caste, Nitish Kumar Mahadalits, Indian ExpressBihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in New Delhi in 2017. Kumar introduced the Mahadalit umbrella in 2007. (Express Archive/Neeraj Priyadarshi)

Mahadalit is not a constitutional term. Scheduled Caste is the officially designated group in India. As chief minister, Nitish Kumar had introduced the Mahadalit umbrella in 2007 after the Bihar State Mahadalit Commission recommended inclusion of 18 SCs in the category. It was seen as a move to cultivate his constituency from among Scheduled Castes. Subsequently, three more Scheduled Caste groups were included, leaving out only the Paswans or Dusadhs.

Mahadalit is a conglomerate of over 20 Scheduled Castes. The late Ram Vilas Paswan was opposed to the term and kept Paswans, also a Scheduled Caste, out of the Mahadalit category in the early days of the categorisation. During the 2010 Assembly elections in Bihar, Nitish Kumar started over a dozen schemes for the group including housing, scholarship, educational loan and school uniform programmes. Ahead of the 2014 general elections, the Bihar CM directed the revenue department of the state to provide land to all Mahadalit families in the state for housing.

Kumar, who belongs to the OBC Kurmi caste, that comprises only three per cent of the state’s population, has succeeded in building his constituency among Mahadalits over the years. Later, the Paswans were also included in the category with Ram Vilas Paswan’s consent in 2018. Following the inclusion of Paswans, there remains no distinction between Dalits and Mahadalits.

More recently, Lok Janshakti Party president and Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan has accused Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of harming the Dalit community by creating the Mahadalit category.

Also read | Bihar Election 2020: What is Luv-Kush?

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