New Delhi, March 17: They live hundreds of miles apart but stood just about 50 metres from each other at the Ramlila Maidan today, each thinking the same thought.
Mohammad Rustam, 30-year-old bag factory worker from Delhi, and Rajkumar Rai, 20-year-old intermediate student from Katihar, were united by a single dream.
That of a developed Bihar where a Katihar town’s streets and buildings will “shine” like Delhi’s and where a Rustam or a Rajkumar will not be forced to leave home to earn a living.
Rustam, a school dropout, had migrated to Delhi some 15 years ago to join people from his village working in bag manufacturing units in Nabi Karim. Today he was at the Ramlila maidan with the dream of a developed Bihar in his eyes so that he could return to his Baspatti village in Sitamarhi district and find employment.
Rai, from the extremely backward Rajbhar community in Madheli village of Katihar, risked a ticket-less journey on a train, nursing the same dream as that of Rustam so that he does not have to follow the other youths from his region and migrate to Delhi or other cities to sustain himself and his parents.
“Main apna gaon nahi chhodna chahta. Agar Bihar ko uska adhikar mil jaayega toh humko apne gaon mein hi kaam milega. Bihar number one rajya banega (I don’t want to leave my village. If Bihar gets its right I will get some job in my own village. Bihar will become number one state),” declared Rai, bubbling with hope as he joined others to raise slogans of “Bhikh nahi Adhikar do, Bihar ko visesh rajya ka darja do (Give us our right not alms. Give special rights to Bihar).”
Rai’s urge to remain in his village manifested in the form of a craving to return in Rustam. The eldest of two brothers and three sisters, Rustam was forced to look for earning at a young age with no land to support the family.
Rustam hoped the mammoth strength Biharis had shown today would yield results.
“Yahan humlog bahut majboori me rehte hai. Ek room me aadha darzan log rehte hai. Maalik log gaali deta hai. Agar Bihar vikas karega to humko apne desh mein naukri milega aur hum chale jaayenge (Here we live out of compulsion. Half-a-dozen people share one room. Our employers abuse us. If Bihar gets developed, there will be jobs and we will return to our own land),” he said.
Unlike Rustam, who has made Delhi his second home for the last 15 years, it was Rai’s first visit to “Dilli”, the country’s capital. He reached on Sunday morning and plans to do a tour of historic Delhi tomorrow, but whatever little he has seen so far has filled him with both anger and hope.
The neat and wide roads, flyovers, big cars and the tall buildings have left this Intermediate student with a sense of anger — Katihar and Patna have nothing compared to what he saw in Delhi.
For Rai, the government treated Delhi as it were the only city in the country. “Dilli to chaka chak hai. Lagta hai sarkar sara paisa yahin lagate hai aur hamare liye bahut kam deti hai. Dilli ke saamne Katihar aur Patna to gaya guzra hai (Delhi is glittering. It seems the government spends all its money here and gives very little to us (Bihar). In comparison to Delhi, Katihar and Patna are hopeless),” Rai said.
But the anger gives rise to a sense of hope as well — that the struggle for a better and developed Bihar that had drawn thousands like him to Ramlila ground would certainly bear fruits. He hoped that the mammoth crowd would compel the central government to give special rights to Bihar and his state would also catch up with the rest of the country.
“We have come here to demand our right. Injustice has been done with Bihar and once we get our rights, our Katihar and Patna will also shine like Delhi,” Rai declared, brimming with optimism.
Rustam and Rai, unknown faces in the midst of the swarming crowd, were symbols of a Bihar aspiring to move ahead. Like these two youths, others in the crowd shed the maligned image of a lawless Bihar and stood as disciplined citizens of the country to raise their voice, firmly enough to be heard in the corridors of power.
Both Rustam and Rai dared the angry push from Delhi police jawans to stand in the front rows and gaze at the stage with a dream of a developed Bihar in their eyes.