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When Mithila stands at the bottom of decisions making paradigm of Bihar.

How long Mithila shall remain at the bottom of the decisions making paradigm of Bihar? It is the most opportune time for Mithila to seek its right under the sun: to renew its long standing demand for the separate statehood for the preservation of its own unique cultural identity and linguistic relevance. Hence, it should be ‘now or never’ syndrome, for the water is neck deep, as Mithila is increasingly drowning in the upsurge of its neglect by the votaries of Biharis’ which symbolises in and around Patna, brushing aside Mithila to its peripheral attention.

Vivekanand Jha, Ranchi: The political developments in Bihar, which has paradoxically resulted in Nitish Kumar, albeit for the second time, in an ironical political calisthenics, almost unprecedented in the constitutional history of India, retains his chief ministership, yet the face of his cabinet and government gets a new facial metamorphosis: instead of BJP, now it is RJD, the major partner, and Congress and others, the pillion riders. Significantly, this development, comes suddenly in such times when Nitish Kumar, never given to much of openness, kept the secret of his mission very close to his heart before he successfully launched his coup to dethrone his previous partner and brought in the new one. This is the game of one upmanship of political chessboard which Nitish Kumar played triumphantly and, that too, with the sense of an ease and confidence without his moral scruples impinging on his conscience, hitherto unseen in Indian politics, makes him a class apart. Ruefully, in this political game of one- upmanship, when those closer to the power corridor in Patna, plays it deftly to retain their stranglehold over power, where the cornerstone of decision making is focussed upon the people surrounding Patna, Mithila, the oldest cultural and scholarly citadel of Bharatvarsha , hitherto a part of Bihar, is rendered inconsequential when decisions, even of such degree and magnitude of ‘ change in government’, has no reflection of the wish and aspiration of the inhabitants of Mithila. Or else, would the people of Mithila in particular and Bihar in general, have acquiesced in Nitish Kumar playing this game of somersaulting where the government they elected in 2020 was given a decent burial by orchestrating a coup which, despite being a characteristic feature of fascism, could seldom behove a constitutional democracy like ours?

The constitution of States Reorganisation Commission in 1955, whose very objective was to grant statehood to the areas which showcased the distinct language, culture and uniformity in the way of living, did a historic injustice to Mithila by denying the region a hallmark of being a distinct state. Significantly, Mithila, despite possessing all these attributes lacked the leadership vision and the geographical uniformity of a collective vision to seek the demand for the separate state. The sporadic demand for the separate state from time to time in decades gone by notwithstanding, the collective aspiration for the same never proved to be the underlying cause for the inhabitants of this region to join hands for seeking a separate state on the basis of distinct language and culture. Worse still, the economic deprivation of Mithila, especially the inundation of its most geographical area by the several cataclysmic rivers, too, strangled the resolve of the people of this place to seek a separate state for preserving its unique and spectacular identity. Worse still, the caste matrix which played a pivotal role in keeping the people of the place, apart from each other in the name of caste. For instance, the stark reality of biting caste division played the spoilsport when the celebration of Vidyapati as the unquestioned icon of Mithila hit the cul-de-sac, for Vidyapati, even though unfairly and irrationally, yet definitively came to be looked upon as the icon of Brahmins, triggering the alienation of the masses from venerating him as the icon of the Maithils and Mithila. Further, appropriation of Vidyapati by the Brahmins, regrettably though, also proved dampener in case of mobilisation of Mithila around the great poet so enormously revered by Gurudev Tagore.

In 2,000, Jharkhand got separated from Bihar on the ground of the indigenous people being thoroughly neglected; they were never the part of the story of economic development of the Adivasi, the ethnic group, invariably felt left out, and therefore, the demand began gaining currency of the separate state. Finally, the government of Bihar had to concede the demand for the separate state and consequently Jharkhand had come into existence. Unequivocally, despite two decades of its coming into existence, the economic improvement of the people of this area continues to be in turmoil, yet the solace of preserving their own distinct Adivasi identity, soon after the creation of the new state, was finally cemented. Mithila, on the other hand, despite showcasing the intellectual capital, continues to remain in the periphery of the attention of Bihar, as the matter of governance has come to be the prerogative of handful of people from in and around Patna. Moreover, the acute paucity of Maithil leadership and the overwhelming sense of one-upmanship among them has seldom provided the template for the grooming of competent leadership in the entire region of Mithila. Worse still, with the demise of Lalit Narayan Mishra, the last remnants of hope and optimism of heralding of any leadership worth its name to take forward the aspirations of the people of Mithila, too, was nipped in bud.

On the occasion of Bihar Diwas 2018, which was the commemoration of 150th year of Champaran Satyagraha, the function held in Gandhi Maidan, showcased the Bhojpuri language as the raison d’etre and summum bonum of Bihar, Maithili, despite being one of the sweetest languages of earth, the language spoken by the people inhabiting the large swathe of the area of Mithila, was condescendingly relegated to the back burner. Blissfully forgotten was the fact that Mithila too formed an integral part of Bihar. Further, in the state song of Bihar, Mithila and Vidyapati was blissfully ignored, unless the hue and cry was raised to necessitate the needful correction. Apt it is here to suggest that how Mithila remains in the periphery of decision making of the state, as those in and around Patna, are actually having the cakes and eating them too. This calls for a fresh impetus on the part of the inhabitants of Mithila to wake up to this formidable challenge to preserve their rich heritage and priceless cultural moorings.

Almost few years ago, Kirti Azad, the then MP from Darbhanga, had raised the demand for the separate statehood of Mithila in parliament, yet pathetically failed in his endeavour to take it forward. Significantly, when Telengana was the living testimony to the distinctive characteristic of a particular class of people getting a state allotted, Mithila tragically had failed to get its due. Moreover, coming together of BJP and Nitish Kumar in 2017 hobbled the aspirations of the inhabitants of Mithila in terms of their statehood demand. However, the latest developments in Bihar, even though unsavoury from myriad parameters, nevertheless has a sunlit feature embedded to it: The BJP at centre and state will be willing to listen to the long standing demands of Maithils for a separate state. If Jharkhand with far lesser intellectuals, could dare to attain their mission, where Maithils are lacking, needs a proper social churning out. If there is collective aspiration for a separate state, none can stop you, especially when Central government has announced the creation of 50 states, Mithila, with a formidable credentials to its kitty has the strength and the prowess to attain it without delay. The iron is hot, Mithila and Maithils should rise up to this historic opportunity.

Vivekanand Jha, author of Delhi Beckons: RaGa for NaMo, 56 Inches and The Making of Narendra Modi, Unmaking of Jawaharlal.

Vivekanand Jha, author, academician and a Public Intellectual.

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