By: Soroor Ahmed, Patna
Afzal Sayed “Mallicks of Bihar” claimed themselves as Telis (oil-erchats) to take Reservation, and it declared as low caste” Teli” by Bihar Government.
In another move to create fissures within the Muslim community the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar has declared Mallicks, arguably the most developed caste among Muslims in Bihar as the backward. The decision came as a rude shock to Muslim intelligentsia in general because educationally, economically and socially Mallicks are second to none, perhaps even Syeds of the state.
This small caste of a few lakhs are spread in about 50-odd village of Patna, Jehanabad, Gaya, Nawada, Jamui, Munger and Nalanda, which is chief minister Nitish Kumar’s home district. In urban centres of these districts too they have a sizeable population.
In the last one century this community has, in proportion to its population, thrown up maximum number of intelligentsia, politicians, academics etc. Be it the first chief minister of Bihar (Barrister Yunus) or the Muslim President of the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee during the infamous riots days of 1946, Abdul Bari, or the first vice chancellor of Karachi University (he was also the last Pro-VC of Aligarh Muslim University before partition), A B A Haleem, all were Mallicks from Bihar. Incidentally, there are a few prominent Mallick families in Mirzapur district of East Uttar Pradesh. Even the Congress Party MP from Mirzapur in early 1970s, late Aziz Imam, was a Mallick.
During the British rule the caste has the distinction of having produced maximum number of barristers, the most prestigious profession of that time. In one family of Mallicks alone there were 22 barristers. Many of them went to England as early as late 19th century. Mallicks of Bihar were among the first to give modern education to their women.
Come out of Patna railway station and you will find several bungalows, apartments and shops owned by Mallicks. They are mostly confined to prestigious Fraser Road, Exhibition Road, Dak Bungalow Road, Station Road. Though a large number of them have migrated to US, UK and Pakistan yet their presence is still palpable. These are the places where the real backward Muslims do not reside.
In the pre-independence era the only section of Muslim community, which can be on par with Mallicks in Patna, were the Shia Nawabs. Barrister Yunus owned a railway line and a private bank. On the other hand in the pre-independence period Mallicks, among Muslims, formed one of the largest number of Zamindars.
It is not that Mallicks have suddenly become backward as the state government would like the people to believe. As Mallicks reside in the central Bihar and near to the capital city, Patna, their mobility is very high. They are in good business in Kolkata. There are very few Mallick families of Bihar whose, at least one member, are not working in the Middle East, USA,UK etc.
Out of four direct Muslim IAS officers in Bihar, one is Mallick (Ashique Ibrahimi). And two of the last four chairmen of the Bihar State Religious and Linguistice Minority Commission are Muslims. Haroon Rasheed was the chairman during the Congress rule till 1990. He was a Mallick and succeeded by Prof Jabir Husian (now RJD’s Rajya Sabha MP), who is a Shia. Prof Husain was succeeded by Prof Sohail Ahmed Khan and once again the present incumbent, Naushad Ahmed, is a Mallick. Incidentlly both Haroon Rasheed and Naushad hail from Erki village near Jehanabad. This village alone has produced a large number of barristers, doctors, engineers, scholars and a famous Pakistani writer of international repute. It needs to be mentioned that another Mallick of Patna ended up becoming the top-most bureaucrat of Pakistan. Then how come this caste has been declared as backward? And why is it that the share of the real backward among Muslims being usurped by those who never deserve it? Herein lies the mystery.
Though Nitish in the last two years sent two leaders of the two different backward castes of Muslims to Rajya Sabha from his party, Janata Dal (United), he played another political card too. While Ali Anwar, the leader of Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz is an Ansari, Dr Ejaz Ali of the United Muslim Morcha (the latest version of the Backward Muslim Morcha) is a Rayeen. Not only that in the last couple of years the state witnessed a unique development. Though caste rallies was the phenomenon confined to the Hindu community yet in the last two years Bihar saw a number of caste rallies of Muslims. Be it the convention of Rangrez, Sain Shah, Mansoori or any other backward castes of the Muslims the chief minister did not skip any such function.
And in most of the show he was accompanied by none else, but Naushad Ahmed Mallick. The big unanswered question, though not related to the issue is: can a chairman of the Commission behave like a politician and organize such meets? This is a significant departure from the past. Neither Lalu Yadav nor Rabri Devi ever attended any caste rally of Muslims during their 15 years rule.
Notwithstanding all the efforts of Dr Ejaz Ali to rope in the backward Muslims and his close relationship with the then minister in the state cabinet, Ghulam Sarwar, the leader of the Backward Muslim Morcha could not get even the ticket of the state Legislative Council. Lalu used to think that Dr Ali’s action was dividing the Muslims, his favourite vote-bank, therefore, sending him to the Council or Rajya Sabha would be detrimental to him. Now the big question is on which ground the Mallicks have got reservation? The first thing is that they have good population in Nalanda, the home district of chief minister. In fact the roots of Mallicks can be traced in Nalanda. According to the history when Bakhtiar Khilji conquered Bihar in the early part of 13th century he had a general named Syed Ibrahim Mallick Bayah, said to be an Arab. He settled here and died in Biharsharif, the district headquarters of Nalanda. His tomb is also situated on the hill-top outside the town.
Though he was an Arab Syed his progeny used the sirname-cum-title Syed. So till the last week of May 2008, when Nitish Kumar government’s took a decision to declare Mallicks backward, the members of this caste would proudly call themselves Syed, rather pure Syed, as they do not marry outside their clan. However, of late some marriages outside the caste has taken place, but mostly with Syeds. Dozens of books have been written by Mallick writers claiming that they are pure Syed. In the last several years late Yaqub Yunus and Hamid Makhdoomi came up with the same thesis.
But then how come a Syed become a backward caste all out of sudden. The argument now being given is that these Mallicks are actually Maliks of western Punjab. Names of cricketers like Salim Malik, Shoaib Malik, Aamir Malik etc will help one understand it. And it is now being said that the Mallicks of Bihar are not Syeds but Telis (oil-erchats) like their counterparts Malik in western Punjab.
Though some old Mallicks are furious over their becoming backward Naushad Ahmed Mallick managed to convince the chief minister––all for the sake of politics. The real backward Muslims would be the
sufferer as Mallicks would walk away with some of their shares in the job and educational institutions. And for the NDA in power in the state nothing is better than a divided Muslim, which always used to
vote for RJD. The ruling combination came to power in 2005 without Muslim support and they are certainly not very eager to get it in future.
Masood Alam Falahi
Book - Hindustan me Jat Pat aur Musalman