Rabri Devi’s Chhath Agony is Representative of the Pain of Bihar

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The social and political opponents of the Lalu Yadav’s family must be chuckling at the agonies of Rabri Devi who decided not to have Chhath Puja celebration this time around.

What a difference against the annual event that her family used to organize when she shared power with her husband: Lalu would have the Chhath by the bank of the river Ganga where he used the state government machinery and profusely attracted the media coverage. The family later took the event to their tax-payers’ given bungalow where the sycophants across the caste and communal groups would throng to have their “prasad” in the form of political favor.

The discontinuation of the Chhath by Rabri reconfirms how tenuous is the relationship between the human beings (particularly politicians) and the God. Many people are driven to worship the Sun-God and observe a 36 hour long fast because they have certain aspiration in their heart or they do it on having certain aspiration fulfilled. Faithfulness to the God, however, means one should have attachment and devotion to Him/Her both in prosperity and adversity.

Many men and women in Bihar, therefore, observe the Chhath puja without any particular desire -- mannat -- on their mind. They do it for the general well-being of their families. My mother used to do the Chhath Puja with the same motive. However, I tagged along with her for many years in the 70’s with a particular selfish objective that my career must turn for the better. Now, I would hesitate to induce any superstition by pronouncing that my prayers were answered. I should have had equal devotion even in the absence of a positive blessing.

In another context, many people have unquestioned dedication to the Chhath and continue to believe in God, but then certain very tragic happens and they give up their faith. The mother of Chandrashekhar Prasad, a former JNU Student leader murdered by the goons of Shahabuddin in Siwan, was a staunch worshipper of God. After the tragic death of her young son, she questioned what good her extreme devotion to the rituals, fast and God had done to her. She quit doing all “Puja-paath.”

In yet another context, a lady in Bihar I know, began observing the annual Chhath puja with all its demanding discipline, to evoke the Sun-God’s blessings that would secure a political party’s nomination to her husband. After all hopes were dashed, the Puja was also abandoned.

Rabri Devi and Lalu Yadav were, perhaps, thanking the rising and the setting Sun when their stars were shining and everything seemed to be at their beck and call. Not anymore.

Think for a moment what Rabri’s devotion to the Chhath has done to her: Her husband in his 70’s is suffering from multiple ailments and is languishing in a jail where she can’t stay with him. There are cases of financial irregularities against herself, her daughter, son and son-in-law.
To add to her woes, the elder son, Tej Pratap, says his marriage barely six months ago was a result of a conspiratorial political maneuver, and stays absent from home on the occasion of Chhath. She must be wondering why her son ran away from the house when many sons of Bihar working elsewhere came home during the Chhath. If she develops a disbelief in the observance of Chhath, it could be quite understandable.

During this Chhath season, everyone in sympathy with Lalu-Rabri must ask this question: Did they act as good parents to their kids? They didn’t give a sound education to their boys despite having so much resources. If they had desired to browbeat or outsmart their upper caste rivals, they could have trained their kids in that direction. Instead, they maneuvered and corrupted the system to make their daughter a phony doctor. Even at this age, they didn’t grant their first son the opportunity to make his own decision with regard to choosing his life partner. This was also an injustice to the girl who was forced into marriage with Tej Pratap.

If the leadership of the Backwards in Bihar represented by the likes of Lalu-Rabri since 1990 had outperformed their upper caste predecessors, brought quality education, employment and prosperity to Bihar, the young men and women would have stayed in Bihar and contributed to its further progress, just as young men and women of other states of India are doing.

Instead, there are towns after towns and villages after villages in Bihar where older and younger women have been leading a miserable life waiting on the male family members who are toiling in other cities.

The agonizing pain Rabri is suffering from because of separation of the males in the family, dead education and stunted modernization is the pain of Bihar.

Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.

Dr. Prasad administers a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.


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