Bihar polls: Why Owaisi, and everybody else, is wrong about calling Seemanchal backward

by Soroor Ahmed

Ever since the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi visited Kishanganj on 16 August an impression is being created by him as well as his lieutenant in Bihar, Akhtar-ul-Iman, that Seemanchal is the most backward region of the state.

With the help of half-baked data, which hide more than reveal, they want to suggest that ‘Muslim-dominated’ Purnea division (or Seemanchal) was neglected by successive state governments. The fact, however, is that Kishanganj, which they call the most backward district of Bihar, witnessed the fastest growth in literacy rate between 2001 and 2011. Only a handful of districts in the country can match this performance.

Asaduddin Owaisi in a file photo. PTI

Asaduddin Owaisi in a file photo. PTI

It is very easy to mislead people by giving fantastic and outdated figures. For example, the literacy rate of Kishanganj jumped from 31.09 in 2001 to 55.46 in 2011. Contrast its figure with Sheohar, a Hindu-dominated district outside Seemanchal, where the literacy rate increased from 35.27 in 2001 to only 53.78 in 2011. It also has the lowest per capita income in Bihar.

They try to project as if the entire Seemanchal has overwhelming Muslim population, when the fact is that, save Kishanganj, in the three other districts Muslims are in minority. The maximum one can say is that Araria, Katihar and Purnea have sizeable Muslim population. Only in one-third of the 24 Assembly segments Muslims are in majority.
There are other facts too, which can’t be brushed under the carpet.

Kishanganj, no doubt, is among the backward districts, but there are some very special features in it. After Patna and Gaya, it has the best rail, road and air connectivity. One can get direct train for all parts of India––Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Ernakulam, Kolkata, Chennai, Bhubaneswar, Dibrugarh, Dimapur etc––from here. Rajdhani Express too stops here.

The Bagdogra international airport in neighbouring West Bengal is just 90 km and the East-West Corridor from Silchar to Porbandar passes through it. NH-107 and NH-31 criss-cross other districts of Seemanchal.

It is because of this better link with the entire country that the two Hyderabadi brothers are finding it a better destination for their politics.

In the last couple of decades people from here have spread to all parts of India and abroad and remittance income is fast increasing in the region.

Kishanganj is not as flood-prone as most districts of the trans-Ganga part of the state are. It was among the least affected districts in the 2008 Kosi deluge. The problem of soil erosion by Mahananda and its tributaries is there — as in other heavy rainfall zones of north-eastern India — yet it is largely free from the menace of water-logging as vast part of Khagaria, Darbhanga, Saharsa, Madhubani etc are. Katihar, in Seemanchal, also has this problem because the devastating river Kosi meets Ganga near Kursela.

In contrast Kishanganj lies on a slope and the land is suitable for tea, wheat, pine-apple etc production.

Eminent educationist Syed Hasan, though originally from old Gaya district, went to set up Insan School after returning from the United States several decades ago. It was a unique school having some resemblance with Shantiniketan.

The then UPA government announced the establishment of a branch of Aligarh Muslim University here. The state government has recently laid the foundation of an agriculture college, which would now be named after late President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. There is a private medical college in Kishanganj and another one in neighbouring Katihar––the second one is run by Muslims. Katihar Junction is also a railway division and the other two districts, Araria and Purnea, are now linked with broad gauge lines. Many other districts of Bihar lack these facilities.

Unlike a couple of decades back, when Seemanchal used to be called the backwater of Bihar, the situation has changed much.

If it is still backward the reason is more historical than political as Majlis is trying to make out for its own end. Almost a part of Bengal, the Muslims of this region have been greatly affected by the policies adopted by the British ever since the Battle of Plassey (1757) which Siraj-ud-daulah lost.

The 190 years of British rule still has its impact on the Muslims of entire Bengal. The people of Kishanganj culturally and socially associate themselves more with Bengal than Bihar. Even the language spoken there has more similarity with Bangla.

What Kishanganj––and other parts of Seemanchal––needs is a socio-cultural revolution. Carpet-baggers from all over the country, especially Muslims, have come over here to contest elections, but have done little for the people. Be it Syed Shahabuddin, MJ Akbar, Syed Shahnawaz Husain, Yunus Saleem, Tariq Anwar etc, they all are outsiders. While the first three won from Kishanganj the last two got elected from neighbouring Katihar.

Now Asaduddin Owaisi is using his proxy Akhtar-ul-Iman for his own political ambition.

Updated Date: Oct 26, 2015 08:31 AM

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