The anti-CAA riots have raged on throughout the nation. While the riots are mostly by Islamists, the support has poured in from several expected quarters. The movie industry, which is often said to be made up of a vacuous, cerebrally vacant lot, have supported the Islamists in their riots. The violence unleashed on India has often been pushed under the rug, while attempts have been made to paint this onslaught as some sort of ‘dissent’ and ‘revolution’. Political parties like Congress, AAP, RJD, TMC etc have only poured kerosene on the raging fire. The latest addition to the list of people who have joined the Muslim mobs, is Chandrashekhar Azad, the chief of Bhim Army, a political party that fights on the ‘Dalit’ plank.
Recently, during the anti-CAA protests, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad surfaced at the Jama Masjid in Delhi, dramatically defying a ban on protests amidst heavy police presence. Azad was seen holding up a copy of the preamble of the constitution along with posters of BR Ambedkar as he led his supporters in a protest inside the gates of the Jama Masjid just after Friday prayers.
The Delhi Police had denied permission to Chandrashekhar Azad’s protest march against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act from Jama Masjid to Jantar Mantar. Reports say that thousands of Muslims gathered at Jama Masjid after the Friday prayers, joined by Bhim Army members. Azad was later detained by the police after reportedly, escaping detention once.
Azad’s presence at Jama Masjid where Islamists held protests indicates the age-old attempt to peddle the ‘Dalit-Muslim’ unity narrative. The ‘Jai Bheem, Jai Meem’ narrative was also seen at Jignesh Mevani’s rally in Gujarat that turned violent. Islamists who had attacked a police van in their frenzy were seen carrying ‘Jai Bheem’ flags.
In the face of such blatant unification of so-called Dalit leaders and Islamists, it becomes important to take a walk down memory lane and remember Dalit leader from West Bengal, Jogendranath Mandal. In Bangla, Yogendra is often pronounced as ‘Jogendra’, as was the Dalit leader Jogendra Nath Mandal. It is rather unfortunate that such vital stories from our past have not been taught in schools. Unfortunate because as is said, those who not remember history are condemned to repeat it.
Jogendra Nath Mandal was born on 29th January 1904 in British Bengal. In fact, the Dalit leader can be called one of the parents of Pakistan itself as he was instrumental in its formation. Ever since he was elected to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation in 1940, he helped the Muslim community and was immensely involved with them.
Jogendra Nath Mandal helped A.K. Fazlul Haq and Khwaja Nazimuddin (1943–45) in their governments and during 1946–47, Mandal contributed greatly to the Muslim League. It is because of Mandal’s immense contribution to the Muslim League that when Jinnah had to name five ministers for his newly formed government, Jogendra Nath Mandal was one of the five. Once named, Mandal became the first Law Minister of Pakistan.
One must look at the contribution of Mandal to the formation of Pakistan as well, that earned him the place in history as the first Law Minister of Pakistan.
After the announcement of June 3, 1947, Assam’s Sylhet district had to decide by voting whether it would become part of Pakistan or of India. The area had almost an equal population of Hindus and Muslims. The results of the election were expected to be non-decisive. Knowing the expected results, Jinnah sent Jogendra Nath Mandal to the area. Mandal went their and swung the Dalit votes in Pakistan’s favour. The area is today a part of Bangladesh.
Jogendra Nath Mandal was also the first Labor Minister of Pakistan. In 1949, Jinnah also entrusted him with the responsibility of the Ministry of Commonwealth and Kashmir Affairs. It was from 1947 that the brutal atrocities against Hindus started in Pakistan. The abduction, murder and rape of Hindus were becoming extremely common and the fact of these sectarian atrocities was not hidden from Mandal. Mandal constantly wrote letters urging authorities to take note and investigate the atrocities against Hindus.
Jogendra Nath Mandal repeatedly urged Pakistan authorities to take action against Islamists heaping atrocities on minority Hindus. However, the Islamic republic was not interested in stopping the atrocities. It was almost as if the persecution of Hindus had state sanction. Unbridled persecution continued with Hindu women being raped, houses being looted and murders and abductions being the order of the day.
Mandal tried his best and for a while, continued his efforts to get the state of Pakistan to act against Islamists. However, his efforts failed. Soon after the death of Jinnah, Jogendra Nath Mandal returned to India in 1950 and lived a life of oblivion in Bongaon, West Bengal. The guilt of his actions weighing down heavily on him. Guilt-ridden, on October 5, 1968, he breathed his last in oblivion.
Dalit and Muslim politics haven’t changed much since then. We still see Dalit leaders trying their best to peddle the narrative of Dalit-Muslim unity. Leaders like Chandrashekhar Azad join Islamists in demeaning India and Congress leaders like Jignesh Mevani scream ‘Jai Bheem Jai Meem’ at the top of their voice.
The anti-CAA riots have seen a renewed push to further this narrative. What is forgotten, however, is that most Hindus who were left behind in Pakistan when the country was partitioned were, in fact, Dalits and backward classes. Today, when Citizenship Amendment Act seeks to right that wrong and give those Dalits and other Hindus the citizenship of India and steer them away from an Islamic nation that has historically heaped atrocities against them, it is unfortunate to see Dalit leaders join Islamists in opposing the Act.
Those who don’t remember history and condemned to repeat it, it is said. With the Dalit leaders pandering to Islamists, it would bode well for them to remember Jogendra Nath Mandal, what his actions entailed, and how, after trying his best to honour to ‘Dalit-Muslim’ unity trope, he breathed his last in India, guilt-ridden, after watching his Hindu brothers and sisters mercilessly persecuted.