Patna: It was an embarrassment for Bihar’s ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Sunday when thousands of people, mainly youths and students, joined the much- hyped human chain on environment conservation announced by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, and raised their voice against CAA-NRC-NPR and growing joblessness in the state. Incidentally, this part of the news was completely ignored by mainstream media while reporting on the ‘massive human chain.’
The reportedly 16,000-km long human chain was called by Nitish Kumar under the Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali mission.
With placards and banners opposing CAA-NRC-NPR and joblessness, the students and youth shouted slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government, including the popular ‘Aazadi’ (Freedom) songs. At some places, youth could be seen wearing black badges and sported T-shirts with slogans against CAA-NRC-NPR and berozgari (unemployment) while joining the human chain for Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali.
Even though mainstream media shied from reporting this aspect of the human chain in Bihar, such reports flooded social media from almost all districts, such Patna, Gaya, Purnea, Madhepura and Nalanda, the home district of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
For instance, Hindi daily, Hindustan (published from Patna and half a dozen places across the state) devoted 10 pages (from front page with editorial to pull out) to the human chain but failed to give even a single column space to the Citizenship Amendment Act, the National Population Register and the National Register of Citizens as well as growing joblessness.
Another Hindi daily, Prabhat Khabar, which devoted eight pages to the human chain, hardly had any mention of the fact that people also protested against CAA-NRC-NPR and unemployment.
This was the pattern which was more or less followed by other dailies, including English ones, who were covering the event.
“We had used the human chain to protest against CAA-NRC-NPR and growing joblessness. Our motive was to draw the government’s attention to these real issues,”Alok Kumar, one of the youths who joined the protest, told NewsClick here.
Another youth, Shamshir Khan, from Gaya, said: “We had chosen the human chain to protest against CAA-NRC and joblessness to spread our views and expose the ruling NDA. We successfully turned the human chain as a protest chain.”
The Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) backed the students and youth protests against CAA-NRC-NPR and joblessness, saying that it was done to expose the ruling NDA’s stand on these issues. In every block and district, youths protested during the human chain against BJP and its ally Janata Dal-United, who voted in favour of the Citizenship in both Houses of Parliament.
CPI (ML) leader Dhirendra Jha said: “We have evidence (video and pictures) that thousands stand in protest during the human chain, but this was not reported at all in newspapers today. All thanks to Nitish Kumar’s media management”.
Inspired by over a month-long resistance at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, which has been following Gandhian principles of peace and non-violence against CAA-NRC, dozens of sit-in protests are going on across Bihar.
Apart from sit-ins, protests of different kinds have been taking place at several thoroughfares since the past few days. One such protest is taking place near the Railway Hospital in Gaya from 6-7 p.m every day where a group of youth silently stand with placards and banners.
It is a different matter that the Nitish Kumar-led government has claimed that a “record 5.12 crore” people joined hands to form a human chain across Bihar for the Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali mission, but Opposition parties, activists and common people are questioning this claim.
Meanwhile, two people, including a schoolteacher, Mohammad Daud, died due to cold while performing their duty as per the administration’s direction to join human chain. A woman also died in Samastipur while participating in human chain.
The government claim of 5.2 crore people participating the ‘human chain’ is also being question by many as Bihar’s total population is nearly 11 crore, including the elderly, children and women. What is further raising doubts the government stating that it was the “longest ever human chain” formed over 16,351-kilometres.
It appears that the NDA government has ignored the basic population figure of the state while claiming that nearly half the population participated in the human chain and has also wrongly calculated the length of roads, say some critics.
“I knew dozens of families across the state, who did not join the human chain on Sunday. But government claim is that half the state’s population joined hands for the human chain. Such a claim is baseless. What is not reported is that thousands jopined hands to protest against CAA-NRC and joblessness during the human chain,” Ranjeev, a green activist told NewsClick.
Thousands of schoolteachers and jeevika didis (livelihood sisters) also boycotted the human chain, angry with the government for its failure to fulfill their long-pending demands.
The human chain was widely seen as part of Nitish Kumar’s political agenda ahead of the Assembly elections due later this year.
“In the name of environmental conservation, it was part of loot of public money in an election year, thanks to Nitish Kumar,” said Ranjeev, alleging that the Chief Minister had “mastered the art of using public money to travel across the state in the name of reviewing different development schemes to fulfill his political agenda.”
The Bihar government has already announced that it would spend ₹24,500 crore on Nitish Kumar’s ambitious Jal Jeevan Haryali over the next three years. ”With less than two and a half months left to end this financial year, loot is going on in the name of conservation of environment”, he alleged.
According to some opposition leaders, crores of rupees were spent on Nitish Kumar yatras followed by the human chain for his “image building”. They also recalled that crores of public money was spent on two human chains -- in 2017 in support of prohibition and in 2018 against child marriage -- but both failed to meet the stated objectives.