Death: the wage for honest labour in Bihar
Despite being an illiterate, Musahru imparted a new dimension to the literacy campaign in his panchayat. But what killed him was his drive to stop the land mafia from grabbing the land of the poor.
From J P YADAV
DH News Service BEGUSARAI, Bihar:
Death seems to be the penalty for honest, good work in Bihar. At least, this was true in the case of whistle-blower engineer Satyendra Dubey and social workers Sarita and Mahesh. And now it’s Musahru Yadav - the Mukhiya of Sahuri panchayat in Begusarai district, who was gunned down by criminals last Tuesday.
Forty-five-year-old Musahru Yadav was among the very few Mukhiyas in Bihar’s Panchayati Raaj, known for his dedication to improving the lives of the poor.
“In this flood-ravaged region, poor people used to mortgage and even sell their land to the landlords at throwaway prices. For the past three years, Musahru Mukhiya stopped it all. And naturally it annoyed the land mafia of the area,” pointed out Noor Mohammad of Sagarpur village. This success turned Musahru into a ‘messiah’ in at least 25 villages of the region.
His popularity among the poor can be gauged from his murder. On Tuesday morning, six unidentified criminals on two motorcycles pumped eight bullets into Musahru just beside his house in Badepura village. Villagers chased the criminals. Two of them were dragged out of the house of a local landlord Yugal Kishore Singh, of nearby Mortar village, and lynched to death. Two others were snatched from the police and killed in a similar fashion. Two more managed to flee.
“He was God-send to us,” said a wailing Kuntee Devi of Badepura. For Musahru Mukhiya’s funeral on Wednesday, people from 25 villages came in thousands, most of them women and children. Tears ran down their cheeks as they narrated what Musahru meant to them.
“Despite being an illiterate, Mukhiya was the backbone of the literacy mission in his Panchayat,” said S N Azad, Secretary of the District Literacy Mission.
‘Fatwa’ against illiteracy
To compel the poor people to educate their children, Musahru had issued a virtual ‘fatwa’ in his panchayat - those who do not send their children to school will be deprived of foodgrains under the red card rationing system. This worked wonders and our mission was a great success in Sahuri panchayat,” said Azad.
During floods, to prevent distress sale of lands, he collected funds through subscriptions and even diverted development funds to sustain the poor. “He was the poor people’s Mukhiya,” said Anurag Kaushal Singh, the BDO of the area. The result was that for the past three years, no land was sold.
Elections to panchayats was held in Bihar after 23 years in April 2001. A large number of those elected had criminal records and many were killed later in gang rivalry. Musahru Yadav was gunned down because he tried to better the lives of the poor as their “elected representative”.