Who was Harichand Thakur and the importance of the Matua community?
Harichand Thakur: On the occasion of the 211th birth anniversary of Sri Sri Harichand Thakur, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Matua community virtually, during the opening of the "Matua Dharma Maha Mela 2022".
He said, "The teachings of Sri Sri Harichand Thakur become more important when we witness violence because of self-interest and attempts to divide society on the basis of language and region." He also called upon the Matua community to spread awareness to end corruption at each level of society.
Delighted to address Matua Dharma Maha Mela 2022 on the Jayanti of Sri Sri Harichand Thakur Ji. https://t.co/UrxHjlMh8L— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 29, 2022
About Harichand Thakur
He worked among the untouchable people of the Bengal presidency. He was born in 1812 in Orakandi, Bangladesh, into a peasant farmer family of the Thakur community (SC community). The family of Thakur was Vaishnavite Hindus who founded a sect of Vaishnavite Hinduism known as Matua.
Members of the Namasudra community adopted this, and they were then also called by the common pejorative name of Chandalas. They were considered untouchables.
This sect opposed caste oppression and later attracted adherents from other communities that were marginalised by the upper castes, consisting of Malis and Telis. The followers of Thakur consider him God and also call him Thakur, an avatar of Vishnu or Krishna. Therefore, he came to be known as Sri Sri Harichand Thakur.
He was married to "Jagat Mata" Shanta Mata and had two sons. He died in the Faridpur district in Bangladesh in around 1878. After the death of Sri Sri Harichand Thakur, one of his sons, named Guruchand Thakur, collaborated with English Baptist missionary doctor Cecil Silas Mead, who worked and lived among the Namasudras to obtain the Chandala people recategorised as Namasudras.
No doubt, Sri Sri Harichand Thakur devoted his life to the cause of betterment of the oppressed and deprived people in undivided Bengal during the pre-independence era.
Now, take a look at the Matua community.
The Matuas are originally from East Pakistan and migrated to India during Partition and after the creation of Bangladesh. A sizable number are yet to get Indian citizenship.
As it was promised by the BJP to speed up citizenship for immigrants under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), this was one of the reasons that Matua voters swung behind the NDA in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The late matriarch of Matua Mahasangha, Binapani Devi Thakur, was awarded the Banga Bibhushan in November 2018. It is the highest civilian award in West Bengal.
One of the largest chunks of SCs in Bengal is the Namasudras. According to the 2001 Census data, they made up approximately 17.4 percent of the population, trailing Rajbanshis by approximately 18.4 percent.
Matua community's long-standing demand for citizenship
As we all know, the BJP-led NDA government promised to implement CAA and so the Matua community helped the saffron party to win most of the SC constituencies in Bengal in 2019.
The refugee community's long-standing demand is to get citizenship. This year, in January, Union Minister of State for Ports, Shipping, and Waterways, Shantanu Thakur, and BJP MLAs in West Bengal who belong to the Matua community, renewed their demand for the immediate implementation of the CAA.
At a meeting which was chaired by the Union Minister at Thakurnagar in North 24 Parganas district, the headquarters of the community in which the Matua community decided to hit the streets to protest the delay in the implementation of CAA. Around 40 leaders attended the meeting of the Matua community.
The BJP-led central government in 2019 brought the Citizenship Amendment Act to grant citizenship to religious minorities of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan who had to flee their countries because of persecution. On December 11, 2019, the Act was passed by the Parliament and the Presidential nod was received the next day. However, the law is yet to be implemented because the rules under the CAA are yet to be framed.