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Now Manjhi Cries Out Against Insult To 'Backward' Asoka


Patna: Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Thursday joined the chorus that Asoka the Great was being denigrated because of the “backward” origin of the Maurya dynasty.
Manjhi, a Dalit who now heads his own outfit but has spent a major part of his political career under the wings of OBC stalwarts Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, expressed the view in his official Twitter handle.
“Asoka is being maligned because he belonged to a backward class. People with a feudal mindset cannot tolerate the rise to power of Dalits, tribals and OBCs,” Manjhi tweeted.
The Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM) president did not mention by name playwright Daya Prakash Sinha whose uncharitable remarks about the Magadha king have led to a political furore in Bihar. He, however, left no one in doubt by urging President Ram Nath Kovind to “withdraw the Padma Shri” given to the one who has insulted the legendary ruler.
Asoka was the grandson of Maurya dynasty founder Chandragupta Maurya, who was born in a family of shepherds and usurped power by overthrowing the discredited but powerful Nanda dynasty.
Sinha, a retired bureaucrat, had got the civilian honour last year and has been chosen for the Sahitya Akademi Award this year for a play based on the life of Asoka who is said to have shunned violence after a victorious battle against Kalinga which filled him with remorse for the large-scale bloodshed.
In a recent interview, Sinha expressed the view that Asoka was very much like Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, as both rose to power after fratricide and projected an image of piety to appear respectable.
The nuanced remark drew an angry response from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), which has sought withdrawal of the Sahitya Akademi Award which has been announced but not yet handed over to him.
An NDA ally, the JD(U) has also demanded that the BJP take appropriate action against Sinha, who is said to be the national convenor of the saffron party’s cultural cell.
The BJP, which has always held that Aurangzeb was a Muslim bigot, is embarrassed by the parallel drawn with Asoka and wary of a possible OBC backlash, especially at a time it is faced with a crucial electoral battle in adjoining Uttar Pradesh.
The party has sought to wriggle out of the situation by criticising and distancing itself from the playwright. “The comments against Asoka are uncalled for. Sinha does not belong to our party,” said Sanjay Jaiswal, the state BJP president.