In the recently-held West Bengal meeting polls, Byapari’s exceptional story took one other twist.
Manoranjan Byapari, one of many first-time MLAs within the new West Bengal meeting, has led an unbelievable life. When he was born right into a Dalit Namasudra household in erstwhile East Pakistan in 1950 or 1951 — he isn’t certain when — the Partition was nonetheless a piece in painful progress. The strategy of politically-sanctioned ethnic cleaning — Muslims there, Hindus and Sikhs right here — was nonetheless happening. Efforts by the Dalit management of East Bengal led by Pakistan’s first regulation minister, Jogendra Nath Mandal, to discover a place for the group in Pakistan had come unstuck with the dying of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Byapari’s was among the many many households that ended up being pushed out.
His childhood was spent in a refugee camp in West Bengal. His mother and father have been dirt-poor and illiterate, and the story of his growing-up years is an unrelenting saga of starvation, sickness and poverty. He himself was given up as lifeless one night time however survived. After his sister died from hunger, he ran away from the hovel the place they lived, and, working odd jobs at roadside tea outlets and dhabas, and going through a number of sorts of exploitation within the course of, together with sexual, he made his option to Siliguri.
The Naxalite motion was then taking off close by. Byapari was drawn to it. He had, nevertheless, returned to Kolkata, after 5 years of wanderings, and even discovered his household at a refugee camp when he was overwhelmed to pulp by CPI(M) cadres who took him for a Naxal. Political violence in West Bengal has a substantial and sophisticated historical past, and again in these days, it was CPI(M) goons that fought and killed Naxals, and vice versa.
The assault made Byapari part of the Naxalite motion. His profession in revolution, marked by violence, ended when an accident in bomb-making drew the police to his door. He was arrested and jailed. It was whereas he was in jail that he met a fellow prisoner who taught him the way to learn and write, utilizing a twig as pencil and the ground of the jail courtyard as blackboard. He purchased his first pen and paper with the Rs 20 he acquired for “donating” a bottle of blood.
Emerging from jail, he grew to become a cycle-rickshaw puller and an avid reader. He used to ply his rickshaw close to Jadavpur University. One day he was ferrying a passenger in his rickshaw and, troubled by a phrase within the ebook he was then studying whose which means he didn’t know, requested her what’s the which means of ‘jijibisha’? The phrase, not utilized in atypical spoken Bengali, means love of life. Byapari had unknowingly addressed his question to simply the suitable individual. His passenger was the good Bengali creator Mahasweta Devi. Intrigued by a rickshaw-puller asking her for the which means of this phrase, she peppered him with questions, and ended by inviting him to jot down a chunk on himself for her literary journal. Byapari’s life took a flip.
His rise to literary fame has taken many years. During this time his day job, other than rickshaw-puller, has primarily been that of a cook dinner at a authorities college. He has written an entire shelf’s value of books, amongst which his autobiography, Itibritte Chandal Jibon, revealed in English translation as Interrogating My Chandal Life, was awarded The Hindu Prize for non-fiction in 2018.
In the recently-held West Bengal meeting polls, Byapari’s exceptional story took one other twist. The rickshaw-wallah turned author entered politics, contesting the polls from Balagarh, a Scheduled Caste reserved constituency, on a Trinamool Congress ticket. He gained and is now a Member of the Legislative Assembly. He is, nevertheless, finished speaking about his life’s extraordinary journey, keener now, on the age of 70, to look forward than behind.
Byapari had not thought he would ever enter politics or turn into an MLA. “I thought about it when Didi (Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee) said you have to stand in the elections,” he says. “I thought that for so long I have written about people’s sorrows, troubles and pains, but I have not been able to solve any of their problems. Now if I am a part of the governing power, then I may be able to help poor people at least a little bit.”
But why Trinamool? “Did any other party ever trust me?” he retorts. “Did they ever give me any such offer? They never thought me worthy of doing anything better than washing dishes. I have capabilities and skills. Did they ever recognise that? Didi did.”
The meeting section he stood from had voted strongly in favour of the BJP within the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and Byapari had his work lower out. He campaigned with a slogan of “rickshaw will go to assembly”. The celebration’s massive win, and his personal, in opposition to a strong rival, has nevertheless not fairly glad him but. “A terrible communal force has been halted, somewhat. Until it is eradicated, reduced to zero, how can we be satisfied?” he says. “It is a poisonous weed. If one root stays somewhere, a poison tree will grow from it again.”
The BJP whose communalism he calls “poisonous weed” has discovered its most fertile floor in West Bengal in his personal group, the Scheduled Castes, and among the many Scheduled Tribes. In the latest polls, it was within the reserved constituencies that the celebration’s efficiency was finest. The purpose for this, based on Byapari, who belongs to the Namasudra sub-caste of Dalits, is lack of training. “Among SCs and STs, the proportion of educated, socially aware, politically aware people is lower. Of the few among them who have acquired some literacy, many are cunning, greedy, selfish. They want to fill their own coffers even if it is by selling out Bengal,” he says. He illustrates this with an instance from historical past. “When the Battle of Plassey was fought against Siraj ud-Daulah there were those of his own camp who helped the other side. That tradition of faithless betrayal is still continuing.”
The individual he singles out for point out, nevertheless, is just not a pacesetter from the Dalit group. “This Suvendu Adhikari, could anyone imagine, after getting so much from the Trinamool, he would go and join hands with a force that is out to destroy the society, literature and culture of Bengal? He has attacked Mamata Banerjee in such disgusting language…What he did was betrayal,” says Byapari, of the TMC turncoat who narrowly defeated Banerjee from Nandigram.
Now that he’s an MLA, Byapari has work to do. “The first thing I want to do is to get water to every house in Balagarh. Water supply is a serious problem there.” The drawback of water scarcity on the one hand is sarcastically accompanied by an reverse drawback, that of land being eaten away by the Hooghly, which flows previous Balagarh. “I want to do something about it,” he says. He additionally has a message for the individuals of Bengal, and all of the individuals of the nation’s Dalit samaj: “Unite against the fascist BJP, take a stand, and band together.”
The author is an creator, journalist and former newspaper editor. He tweets as @mrsamratx