Karpoori Thakur: A social justice icon honoured with Bharat Ratna

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The government of India has announced that it will confer the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award of the country, to late former Bihar chief minister Karpoori Thakur posthumously. Thakur, who was known as Jan Nayak (people’s hero), was a champion of the backward classes and the poor. He was also a pioneer of caste-based reservations in India. His award comes at a time when the opposition parties are demanding a nationwide caste census to measure the socio-economic status of various communities.

A tribute to the ‘Jan Nayak’ on his birth centenary

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his delight that Thakur will be honoured with the Bharat Ratna on his birth centenary. He said that Thakur’s relentless pursuit of social justice created a positive impact in the lives of crores of people. He also penned a blog post on his website, where he praised Thakur’s visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to uplift the downtrodden. He said that Thakur’s award not only honours his remarkable contributions but also inspires us to continue his mission of creating a more just and equitable society.

Thakur was born on January 24, 1924, in a poor barber family in Bihar. He rose from humble origins to become one of the most influential leaders of the state and the country. He joined the freedom struggle at a young age and was jailed several times by the British. He was also associated with various political parties throughout his career, such as the Praja Socialist Party, the Janata Party, and the Janata Dal. He served as the chief minister of Bihar twice, from 1977 to 1979 and from 1988 to 1989. He passed away in February 1988.

A pioneer of caste-based reservations in India

Thakur is widely regarded as the pioneer of caste-based reservations in India. He was the first chief minister to implement reservations for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and the Economically Backward Classes (EBCs) in Bihar in 1978. He also introduced reservations for women in local bodies and educational institutions. He faced stiff opposition and criticism from the upper castes and some sections of his own party for his bold moves. However, he remained firm on his stand and defended his policies as a means of ensuring social justice and empowerment for the oppressed sections of the society.

Karpoori Thakur

Thakur’s reservation policy had a far-reaching impact on the politics and society of Bihar and India. It paved the way for the emergence of new leaders and parties that represented the interests of the backward classes and the poor. It also challenged the dominance of the upper castes and the Congress in the state and the centre. Thakur’s legacy is still revered and followed by many politicians and activists who advocate for the rights and welfare of the marginalised communities.

A criticism of the Modi government’s hypocrisy

While the government’s decision to award Thakur with the Bharat Ratna has been welcomed by many, it has also been criticised by some as a political move to woo the backward classes and the poor ahead of the upcoming elections. The Congress party, which is the main opposition to the BJP, has accused the Modi government of hypocrisy and desperation. It said that Thakur was a staunch critic of the RSS and the BJP’s ideology and policies, and that the government is trying to appropriate his legacy for its own gains. It also said that the government is ignoring the demand for a nationwide caste census, which is the true tribute to Thakur’s vision of social justice.

The Congress party’s leader Rahul Gandhi said that Thakur was a great leader who fought for the rights and dignity of the backward classes and the poor. He said that Thakur championed the cause of a caste census to measure the socio-economic status of various communities and to ensure fair and adequate representation for them in all spheres of life. He said that the Modi government is afraid of conducting a caste census as it will expose its failure to deliver on its promises of development and welfare for the masses. He said that the Congress party will continue to demand a caste census as a homage to Thakur and his ideals.

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