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Today is 25th August, the day a champion of the rights of the oppressed , Bindeshwari Prasad Mandal was born 98 years back. Today, he will be remembered for his many contributions to the cause of upliftment of the downtrodden, but particularly for his role as Chairman of the Second Backward Classes Commission, which released in 1980 what later became famous as the Mandal Commission Report. But remembering and celebrating the historical role of Bindeshwari Prasad Mandal, will be incomplete without remembering on this occasion the very Architect of implementation of the Mandal Commission Report almost a decade later in 1989. Vishwanath Pratap Singh,gentleman politician and Prime Minister, who stood his ground for the oppressed and literally sacrificed his Chair !

We at the Peoples’ Rights Organisation, a human rights organisation, were among the first few rights bodies who whole-heartedly supported V. P. Singh’s decision to implement the Mandal Commission Report. We got copies of the Mandal Report from Central News Agency and learnt about the woes, particularly educational backwardness, of the artisan communities and how the Commission devised measures of ‘positive discrimination’ and reservation in Govt. jobs and educational institutions to remedy such age-old oppression. Particularly striking was the Mandal Commission’s recommendation of land reforms and land to the tiller, which was unthinkable at that time with Economic Reforms taking centre-stage.

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We who taught or studied at the University of Delhi, were witness to the way the anti-Mandal agitation was organised from behind the scenes. For a couple of days after the announcement of the decision to implement the Mandal Report, all was quiet on the campus front till purse strings, senior academics and student leaders preparing for the IAS exams for years, suddenly got together their act, and ” V. P. Singh! Hai! Hai! ” rent the air loudly and threateningly.. When some of us teachers went to the Hindu College hostel, to enquire about some Dalit students having been beaten up, we were also assaulted. No body dared to come to our rescue. Such were the times..After V. P. Singh left the scene, the same individuals, parties and groups who were crying hoarse for his blood, milked the Mandal magic!

Now that is history. But the fact remains that B. P. Mandal ,whose birthday falls today, and V. P. Singh are inseparable in their courage, commitment and service to the oppressed classes through the Mandal Commission, one wrote the Report and the other put it to effect against all odds.

Dr. Aurobindo Ghose , General Secretary, Peoples’ Rights Organisation, A Human Rights Body.
E-mail : g_aurobindo@yahoo.com

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