RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav’s anti-BJP rally ‘BJP Bhagao Desh Bachao’ on Sunday has assumed significance and brought a fresh vibe to the Opposition with lakhs of people thronging to the Gandhi Maidan in Patna. Photographs and videos emerged from the state capital of Bihar show literally a sea of people. RJD claimed that the numbers are over 30 lakhs. The unprecedented turnout of people in Patna brings back the memories of a popular movement erupted in the region and a mammoth rally organised by Jayprakash Narayan at the same Gandhi Maidan just before the Emergency. Notably, Lalu Prasad Yadav was also part of the movement seventy years ago.
During, the months before Emergency in 1974, Patna was one of the hotbeds of protests, especially agitation by several student movements and violence and the curfew was routine. The students of Bihar had approached Jayaprakash Narayan to lead their movement and to channelize their efforts. After JP agreed to spearhead the protests, agreeing that the movement will be entirely non-violent and his leadership will be absolute, a massive silent March was organised in Patna on 8 April. It was considered as the first political stage for JP and a small committee, the Peoples Action Committee, was formed under the leadership of JP.
The anti- government feeling was dominant in students’ unions from Bihar and Lalu Prasad Yadav was the President of Patna University Students Union, who played a significant role in the ‘Bihar movement’ and began his political career under the auspices of JP.
On 18 February 1974, the Patna University Students Union organized a convention which invited student leaders from the whole state. The Bihar Vidhan Sabha was surrounded by students and Lalu Prasad was arrested. The students formed Bihar Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti (BCSS) to spearhead the agitation and Lalu Prasad Yadav was chosen as a president. The killing of three students by police in Patna provoked student opposition across Bihar and the BCSS declared a statewide strike on 23 March. Meanwhile, JP who was in Gujarat to witness the Nav Nirman movement, declared his intention to lead on 30 March 1974.
Significantly, it was during a public meeting in Patna on 5 June 1974, JP first gave the call for “Sampoorn Kranti” (Total Revolution). It resulted in the arrest of 1,600 agitators and 65 student leaders.
JP called for series of protests and closure of colleges and universities also occurred on 15 July. Some colleges started after that and examinations were held. JP told students to boycott examinations and called for a three-day statewide strike starting from 3 October and addressed a massive public gathering on 6 October.
At another massive gathering at Patna on 18 November, JP spoke to outcast Congress government of Indira Gandhi. JP upheld the importance of fighting within the democratic system and contacted all other opposition parties, which finally resulted in the formation of the Janata Party.
It is significant that when the series of events completes 43 years, lakhs are gathering again in Patna under Lalu Prasad Yadav to counter the BJP-government, which happens at a time when the government at the Centre is targeting all kinds of political dissidents