Progressives and Reactionaries Polarised Over Memorial for Dr. Nirmal in Darbhanga

A remarkable mass movement is underway in Darbhanga, Bihar, in which there is a struggle between people’s memory and political amnesia, between a progressive vision of a people’s Bihar, against a Bihar shackled in the feudal-communal mould.

It all began when some doctors of Darbhanga Medical College decided to commemorate a remarkable alumnus of their institution –Dr. Nirmal. Nirmal Singh was a bright student, born in a middle class, backward caste peasant sfamily in Bhojpur. He qualified for the Darbhanga Medical College by his high marks is his intermediate school exams – a rare instance where a student from any backward/dalit or oppressed backward could breach the unspoken barrier of entry to medical college.

He took on the suffocating Brahminical-feudal hegemony in the DMC hostel and administration (a feature which persists in many medical colleges in India even today). A popular student, he soon rallied progressive students around him in the fight against caste discrimination, braving several attacks on his life in the process. On one such occasion in February 1973, he was injured, abused even in hospital and jailed on false charges. Spurred by a sharp sense of the inherent injustice of the judicial process towards the oppressed communities and the poor, he returned to Sahar, Bhojpur where the CPI(ML)-led movement against feudal oppression was raging. Eventually, on 29 November 1975, Dr. Nirmal was martyred alongside CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Jauhar (Subrata Dutta) following a 72-hour gun battle.

This glorious legacy of Comrade Nirmal continues to inspire students and professors of Darbhanga Medical College who decided to erect a memorial and dedicate a park to honor his legacy. The Medical College administration had already accepted a proposal for installing a statue and dedicating a park in his name which was duly published in college’s Souvenir and various newspapers and magazines. When Medical College administration installed a statue with active cooperation of present students and alumni on 27 Dec. 2012, it was widely welcomed by the democratic and progressive circles in the region. But BJP leaders in the town became restless and the local BJP MLA demanded that the health minister Ashwini Chaube and CM Nitish Kumar have the statue removed.

Installing of statues is not new to this college and many statues have been installed at earlier occasions in the campus. One park is dedicated to Dr. Chakradhar Jha, one gate is in the name of two ex-students Mohan Rai and Vimla Rai, the front of the old college building has been reserved for the statue of erstwhile king of Darbhanga! And no one had ever objected to such proposals. But feudal-brahminical regressive forces are trying to obstruct a memorial of a revolutionary who sacrificed his life. The BJP in ruling alliance of the state is conspiring to remove the statue and BJP Minister of Health in Bihar had announced shamelessly that the statue will be removed in three days! A week passed since then and no one was able to touch the statue, thanks to thousands of people who came to challenge the right reactionaries.

Dr. Ajit Kumar Chaudhary who is active in this struggle first received a show-cause notice from the college administration and when he led the people opposing the police attempts of removing the statue, was implicated in criminal sections along with Dr. BMP Yadav, employees’ leader Yogendra Ram, one hostel employee Ramsagar Ram and 50-60 other people. Police failed to remove the statue.

On the fifth day, on 17th March, a massive mass meeting was held near the statue. People from across their political-social divides reached there in support. Leaders from different streams supported Dr. Ajit Kumar Chaudhary and garlanded the statue. Representatives of various social-political streams lent their support.

Ex-minister Ashraf Fatmi said that while there is wave of support in favour of installing the martyr’s statue, the Bihar govt. is disrespecting people’s sentiments and is a real burden for the people.

Dr. Ajit Kumar Chaudhary said that he had started this mission with a very small team, but in face of govt. repression this has transformed into a massive mass movement. People’s support is giving enormous strength and now there is no force in the world strong enough to prevent us from successfully accomplishing our task of installing the statue of martyr Dr. Nirmal. CPI(ML) leader and ex-MLA and National General Secretary of All India Kisan Mahasabha Rajaram Singh said that Dr. Nirmal carried forward and lived the legacy of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh which is continuing in the martyrdoms of comrades like Mahendra Singh, Chandra Shekhar, Brajesh Mohan Thakur and Bhaiyyaram Yadav and many others even today. Bihar will never tolerate regressive forces which are trying to insult the martyrdom of Dr. Nirmal. He said that Nitish Kumar is now sitting in the lap of feudal-communal forces.

Prominent medico and founder General Secretary of Overseas Doctors Association in Britain Dr. Rajeshwar Prasad Sinha remembered his college days and his martyred friend and greeted students and teachers of the medical college saying this is a great struggle for giving the history its due place. Litterateur and ex-member of Bihar Legislative Council Prem Kumar Mani said that the forces opposing Dr. Nirmal are same who had murdered Gandhi. He added, the movement of which Dr. Nirmal was an integral part and laid his life was a movement which brought revolutionary changes in Bihar’s polity and society. Now fundamental issues of Bihari society are being evaded by present chief minister Nitish Kumar who is backing reactionary feudal forces. CPI(ML) leader Arun Kumar said that rulers know it well that the statue of Dr. Nirmal will be an everlasting inspiration for the struggling poor and toiling people of the state hence they are trying to oppose him. But no one can deny that the movement starting from Darbhanga has the potential to give a new direction to the whole of Bihar. Retd. Colonel Lakshmeshwar Mishra also addressed the gathering where he strongly condemned Bihar government and said that people’s aspirations can never be suppressed by the repressive tactics of the state. Many other speakers including teachers and students of Darbhanga Medical College also addressed the mass meeting and expressed their determination to defeat the reactionary, fascist forces and in favour of the victory of the people.

The resolutions were also passed in presence of thousands of poeple demanding withdrawal of all cases imposed on the activists and doctors of the college, dismissal of Bihar health minister, and that the government must stop defaming the martyr vanguards of the social political movements which brought progressive changes in Bihar and elsewhere.

On 18th March, the police arrested Dr Ajit Choudhury and Dr. BMP Yadav, but the arrest only sparked off an even more massive day-long protest that lasted till 11 pm at night, till the doctors were eventually released. In protest, thousands of people blockaded streets in Darbhanga that day, demanding release of the doctors.

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