The All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF) has called for a Bharat Bandh today. The list of demands includes a caste-based census by the central government, the call for which is also being supported by political parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s party, and the BJP-ally Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)). Nitish Kumar has also announced an all-party meeting to discuss the possibility of a caste-based census in the state, on June 1.
Along with a caste-based census for the Other Backward Classes (OBC) and minorities being the key demand, the BAMCEF is also protesting against the use of EVMs in elections, implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, and the National Register of Citizens. It has also called for reservation of SC/ST/OBCs in the private sector, minimum support price (MSP) for farmers, and resumption of the Old Pension Scheme. Additionally, the BAMCEF is also demanding a separate electorate for OBC reservation in panchayat elections, in Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.
The Bharat Bandh has been supported by several organisations. “Our Bharat Bandh movement has been supported by Rashtriya Parivartan Morcha, Bharat Mukti Morcha, Bahujan Mukti Morcha and many other organisations,” indicated BAMCEF president Vaman Meshram. States like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh will reportedly face some disruptions due to the bandh, while the closure of some shops and public transport may affect the general public. Reportedly, government, private offices and schools will remain open.
On the political front, the call for a caste-based census has also been supported by other political parties in addition to the RJD and JD(U) such as the Congress, left parties, the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. CM Nitish Kumar stated, “We will start it soon and will also ensure it is implemented properly. Once the caste-based Census is done, the government can work for their development.”
On Monday, the Bihar chief minister indicated that the meeting will take place on a day convenient for all the political parties in the state. The state’s parliamentary affairs minister and JD(U) member, Vijay Kumar Chaudhary has confirmed that the meeting will be held on June 1. “Based on the meeting, the matter can be brought before the state cabinet for a final decision to be taken at the state government level,” said Chaudhary, dismissing any contention between the NDA-BJP and JD(U) alliance.
Last year, the Bihar CM, along with a delegation of several other leaders, met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his intervention for conducting a caste-based census. “The CM announced to do it on the state’s resources after the PM expressed his inability to include the caste enumeration along with the census,” said Chaudhary. The PM has mentioned that states can conduct a caste-based census at their own expense. However, most BJP leaders have always opposed the idea and said that it is divisive.
According to Nitish Kumar’s former deputy and senior BJP leader Sushil Modi, while the central BJP has opposed the idea, the party has never done so at the state level. He asserted that party members have backed the resolution calling for a caste-based census passed in the Bihar assembly, and pointed out that BJP state minister Janak Ram was a part of the all-party delegation that met PM Modi last year.
The Bihar legislative assembly passed a resolution in 2019 and 2020, for conducting a caste-based census, and submitted it to the Centre to include it as part of the 2021 general census. Additionally, an all-party delegation from Bihar also met with PM Modi and submitted a memorandum on the matter, as informed by VK Chaudhary. However, the Centre said that the caste-based census cannot be included in the 2021 general census as the survey has already been completed, and that they will be unable to change a country wide exercise mid-way.