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Was Always Thrown in Jails Ahead of Bihar Polls, Says Manoj Manzil, the Debutant Dalit CPI(ML) MLA

Manoj Manzil. (Image: Twitter)

Manoj Manzil. (Image: Twitter)

In 2018, Manzil received accolades for his initiative 'Sadak Pe School', when he, along with his associates from AISA (the students' wing of CPI(ML), gathered children of poor Dalit and Muslim families and started their own schools on public roads.

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Suhas Munshi

"Whenever elections are around the corner, they send me to jail,” the 36-year-old first time CPI(ML) MLA, Manoj Manzil, said. In an attempt to prevent him from campaigning, the CPI(ML) leader said that he was thrown behind bars in the last Vidhan Sabha elections in 2015 in Bihar. "But I managed to secure 35,000 votes even then,” he said.

This time also, he was picked up soon after he filed his nomination from his native Agiaon (SC reserved) seat. Despite all odds, Manzil, the son of a landless farmer couple, secured 86,327 votes, 48,550 more than his nearest rival JD(U)'s Prabhunath Prasad.

In 2018, Manzil received accolades for his initiative 'Sadak Pe School', when he, along with his associates from AISA (the students' wing of CPI(ML), gathered children of poor Dalit and Muslim families and started their own schools on public roads.

'Sadak pe School' became simultaneous sites of sit-in protests and places of alternative schooling.

Manzil spoke to News18 as a first-time MLA on caste violence, his ascent into left politics and his plans for the future.

Could you tell us a bit about your childhood?

“I was the only child of a poor landless labour couple. They still work on other people’s farms. When the farm season ends, my father works in a brick kiln. Our small house is built on 3 dismil (0.01 hectare) of land. I went to Arrah for my graduation and use to teach children in order to support my education. But several times I had to drop out of studies because at times there was not enough to eat at home.”

How did you get into left politics?

My family had introduced me to left politics in a way. My father, while being a farm hand, was also a CPI(ML) cadre. My uncle, who was part of Jay Prakash movement, spent his life fighting feudalism and spent 14 years in jail. My mother was also, in her own way, part of the resistance. But the other, the bigger reason was our history.

In the '70s, we had repeatedly seen and suffered at the hands of the feudal militia. There is a village not very far from here, and now it is part of my constituency, called Hadiyabad. That's where my mother is from. Private armies owned by feudal lords set it to fire in the early 70s. Not many people survived. My mother was one of them. But she had lost her everything in that carnage.

Later on, we saw the aftermath of massacres that were committed by Ranvir Sena (private militia of Bihar's landlords accused of murdering hundreds of Dalits) and we would weep, all the time. As time passed, we suffered police atrocities also. I've got 30 FIRs slapped against me for my activism in education, land reforms etc., by the police and five times I've been to jail.

Over time, all these things accumulated in my mind to the point where I decided to work not just for my family but for all the families in my area.

How does it feel to finally be an MLA?

I haven't found much time since the election results were announced. Two children in my constituency died from a cylinder blast. Just now I finally finished the formalities of getting Rs 8 lakh compensation to the family.

Your party’s remarkable performance has started talks about the possible revival of the left.

We worked on the ground for all sections. All our associates from other parties also put their hearts and souls into helping me. There is disappointment over the three seats that our party has lost by margins of less than 150 votes. But we take heart from what we have achieved.

Finally, how did you come to have this name?

[Laughs] Yes this wasn't my original name, it was Manoj Kumar. I was quite interested in literature. I used to write and direct plays. And one of the words that I kept coming across repeatedly, and which really moved me, was 'Manzil' [destination/goal]. So I took on that name.


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