PATNA ~ The Bihar government is caught in a curious conflict with students, alumni and teachers of Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) over the bust of a slain Naxal leader on DMCH’s campus. Nirmal Kumar, the Naxalite in question, had been a final year student of DMCH in 1975 when he was killed in an encounter. In February 2012, the college’s alumni association and students took a decision to put up a bust in his honour. Teachers and intellectuals of Darbhanga also collected donations. “We got the bust made in Rajasthan for Rs 1 lakh,” says Dr BNP Yadav, a batchmate of Kumar.
It was installed on 27 January this year. Soon, local BJP legislators Gopalji Thakur and Sanjay Sarawgi sat on a dharna in protest. On 26 February, the district administration, under the instructions of Health Secretary Vyasji Mishra, went to take the bust down, but had to retreat after a large number of students, teachers and locals gathered in protest.
Next, BJP leaders in the state Assembly demanded that the offending bust be removed, and got an assurance from Health Minister Ashwani Kumar Choubey, also of the BJP. “Nobody can set up a statue or bust of anyone except Mahatma Gandhi on government land without permission,” declared Mishra.
On 18 March, district officials made another attempt to remove the bust, but were thwarted by a spontaneous protest. Last Sunday, over 50 doctors from across the state sat on a day-long dharna in Patna, demanding the CM’s intervention. They also asked that the state health minister be sacked. Dr Rajiv Ranjan Prasad, state unit president of the Indian Medical Association, later said, “Status quo must be maintained within the campus and the victimisation of doctors protesting against the administration’s order must be stopped.”
A local Communist leader Dhirendra Jha has threatened an agitation if the bust is removed. “Dr Kumar was a social leader who was martyred,” he says.▪