Jesuit’s book highlights “resilient culture” of Bihar’s “noble people”

Pushpanjali Maanjhi, Sr Sudha Varghese, Shanker A Dutt and Fr T Nishaant SJ

By Matters India Reporter

Patna, August 11, 2019: A Jesuit’s book on Bihar’s Musahars will help sensitize society about one of the most deprived communities who live in abject poverty, hunger and deprivation, says a noted educationist.

The word “Musahar” (literally rat eater) is derogatory and not associated with profession or food habit, asserted Shanker Ashish Dutt, head of the Department of English in Patna University.

He was speaking on August 11 at the release of “Musahars: a noble People, a resilient Culture,’ written by Jesuit Father T Nishaant, principal of St Xavier’s College and St Xavier’s College of Management and Technology, Patna.

Dutt and other speakers, including eminent social worker Padmashri Sister Sudha Varghese, called for change in the nomenclature of Musahar people, who fall under the ‘Mahadalit community’ or the most marginalized of the lot.

People of the Musahar community eat meat of not only rats but of many other animals, Dutt pointed out, adding that they are also involved in digging of soil, apart from being working as watchmen.

Father Nishaant’s book, the university professor added, would “go a long way to sensitize people about one of the most deprived communities living in abject poverty, hunger and deprivation, in the social landscape.”

Sister Varghese agreed with Dutt while addressing the gathering as the chief guest. The term Musahar was “outdated” as the community members are no more rat eaters. People of other castes also ate rats, pointed out the Notre Dame nun who has worked with the Musahar community for more than 30 years.

Congratulating the author for the book, Sister Varghese said the Musahar community had been fighting for water, land, food for years. “Even today people of the community were fighting for survival,” she added.

With incidents of oppression, caste exploitation and gender insensitivity, Bihar has become a land of many contradictions.

Calling for a “positive change,” which she said would come with a collaborative plan and strong political will, Sister Varghese asked Musahar youths to “take up the responsibility to inspire children of the community to study.”

The audience
Pushpanjali Maanjhi, another speaker, said Bihar has more than 4 million Mushars, who were socially and economically weak. Different names given to them on the basis of their food habit were not their true identity, she too asserted.

Maanjhi, an alumnus of St Xavier’s College of Management and Technology who aspires to become an civil service officer, stressed the need to educate Musahar children to bring about a change in their socio-economic conditions.

Earlier, Father Nishaant, who welcomed the guests and introduced his book, said the condition of Musahars in Bihar was pathetic. In order to improve their condition, there was a need to “change their name, reclaim their tribal status and mobilize their political expediency,” he explained.

He said the book was an ethnographic study of Musahars in Bihar, aiming at their liberation through a dialogical process between socio-economic development and cultural revolution.

The Jesuit educationist said he had been associated with the Musahar community since 1988 and his ardent desire to work for their integral liberation impelled him to undertake a scientific study of Musahars’ cultural life.

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