Ranchi in 1968

Once upon a time in Ranchi, the summer capital of Bihar

My third published story got me a byline, in New Republic. The heady feeling was more intoxicating than the knowlege that I could earn money by writing. Fifty years later, I still remember the thrill of seeing my name for the first time in print.

The article was a year-end round up about 1968. The year proved to be a roller coaster ride. Bihar watched in amazement the political striptease. Within just three months it got four chief ministers. It was also the beginning of hegemony of backward castes in Bihar politics and the fall of mighty upper caste lobby. Bihar politics would never be the same again after 1968.

While sharing the article, I am aware of its shortcoming. It tries to capture the tumultuous events of 1968 through the eyes of a 17-year-old student. If you want a mature view of that period, you must read the scholar-journalist Arvind Narayan Das‘s wonderful book — The Republic of Bihar.

Bihar gets 4 Chief Ministers within 3 month


Mahamaya Prasad Sinha, CM of Bihar (5 March 67-28 Jan 68)

Satish Prasad Singh, CM of Bihar (28 Jan 68 – 1 Feb 68)
BP Mandal, CM of Bihar (1 Feb 68 – 2 March 68)
Bhola Paswan Shastri, CM of Bihar (22 March 68 – 29 June 68)

Black Year!

Yes, of course 1967 may be called the black year for Ranchi.

We the people of Ranchi witnessed a shameful communal riot. But the most shameful thing for us is that chaps responsible for this atrocity are still present in our society, making the clean air of Ranchi poisonous.

Now let us see the Human Rights Year, 1968.

But alas, the whole of the Human Rights Year was in the grips of section 144 (IPC). Ten months out of the 12 were ruled by this section.

Political Front

In the beginning of this year the Mahamaya Prasad Sinha Governmennt was toppled by Congress-Shoshit combine. This caused a reaction in Ranchi.

The first sign of trouble appeared on 16th January, when some people snatched away copies of a local Hindi weekly and destroyed all the copies at Morabadi ground. Reason was the headline in the Paper announcing the victory of Congress and Shoshit Dal.

The same day about 200 students brought out a procession, shouting pro-United Front slogans. Next day, students again brought out a procession. The police-student clash began at its usual place — in front of the P.G. (post graduate) building. There was an attack on Congress building.

After this all schools and colleges were closed by the authorities. A local weekly presented the news with a suitable headline – “Subdued Reaction to Toppling of UF Ministry.”

During the course of the year two more Governments were toppled – BP Mandal Ministry and Bhola Paswan Shastri Ministry. We also had a CM for 5 days – Satish Prasad Singh. But the develoment did not shock Ranchi.

People were actually not interested in toppling of governments. This had become routine news. Some thought that basically all political parties were the same.

There was not much election campaign this year for the forthcoming mid-term poll.

Towards the end of 1968, Mrs Indira Gandhi came to Ranchi on her visit to Bihar for election-campaign. Her position as Prime Minister ensured gathering of a good crowd.

In the meeting she said that UF Government failed because they were quarrelling but not because of the Congress attempts.

Perhaps she forgot about the Congress support to Shoshit Ministry.

Students Front

Ranchi College did not have a single permanent hostel


No one understands Ranchi University – not even the Vice Chancellor himself. Some people say that onl the Registrar knows Ranchi ‘Varsity.

The student unrest came to the fore soon after the toppling of the Mahamaya Ministry. This was natural because they were “Jiger Ke Tukre” of Mahamaya Babu.

In the Agricultural colleges there was a strike in January together with two other agriculture colleges of Bihar. Then came the Adivasi Movement. Although, it was a political and civil movement. But here also students played a leading role.

After the student agitation, the annual convocation of Ranchi University was postponed and finally cancelled. All the colleges as well as the University departments were closed in April.

The militant group of the students of Ranchi University brought out a procession to protest against the action of the university bosses about the closure of Ranchi University.

In the month of November there was a Medical College students’ agitation, when they demanded postponement of their exams. The police escorted the VC out of the university office.

Then in Ranchi College four B.Sc. students went on a hunger strike in support of their demands about grace marks and valuation of combined marks of theory and practical papers.

They finished their hunger strike after the VC’s assurance to put the matter before Academic Council. Afterwards the Academic Council rejected their demands. But the students are not accepting this decision, as there were only about 40 percent members present in the meeting.

Students know that these agitations cause harm to them. They have seen the advertisements published by two industrial concerns about their refusal to employ engineering graduates from Ranchi University due to its low standard as a consequence of floating grace marks.

There is a joke. A sign in front of a bridge says, “Caution. This bridge is made by Ranchi University Engineering students.”

But can we say that the entire fault is from the students’ side? The University bosses are not very clean themselves.

Mismanagement is one of the causes of students’ agitation. There has not been an election for the students union in Ranchi College for two years.

There are no hostel facilities. Four boys are living in a room, which is not large enough even for three boys, in temporary hostel hired by the college. There is no permanent hostel.

The boarders of the hostels are always getting notices from the authorities to vacate the hostel in 24 hours in case of strike or some agitation.

There are several students unions in Ranchi. But none is doing any constructive work.

Ranchi Students Federation has taken one step in this direction. The boys of Ranchi Students Federation have opened a textbook library for such students who are poor and meritorious. They are also planning to open a Night school for poor children.

Civic Front

City buses in Ranchi

There was a tragedy concerning a young married woman of about 22 years, named Minati Das. Her disappearance from a local hotel in broad day light on 20th March created an atmosphere of deep mystery. It was a talking subject for months.

In July the bus owners of Ranchi city buses went on a strike. They resumed service after a heavy increase in fare. The condition of fare increase was no overloading. But overloading is still going on.

In December a sensational thing happened in Ranchi when the police arrested some goondas and there was firing from both parties. The mob tried the put the police outpost on fire. Some politically motivated people tried to give a communal colour to this incident.

Adivasi Movement

Birsa Munda

During the Adivasi movement there was a three day successful programme of demonstrations which was organised on 11
th, 12th and 13th of May.There was a militant Adivasi movement started by the Birsa Seva Dal. The immediate cause of this agitation was land problem and an incident in which a leading Adivasi student was beaten up by a gang of non-adivasi students. Actually the root was much deeper. It was an expression of a new militant mood of Adivasi people.

The movement took a violent turn when the police opened fire in Churi in which six Adivasis were killed on 2nd June.

In June the police also fired 37 rounds of teargas shells and also resorted to lathi charge in order to disperse a violent crowd of Adivasis near Ranchi College. The mob had assembled to stop the pre-university exams.

Actually this militancy and violence were influenced by Naxalites, who were active in Birsa Seva Dal. They distributed leaflets in support of Adivasis, stating that this movement was a movement against their exploitation.

Parties like the Jana Sangh and the Congress were against this movement.

In the students wing, Adivasi Chatra Sangh and Students Federation were working shoulder to shoulder. The Ranchi Students Federation protested against Churi firing and also distributed pamphlets in support of Adivasi movement. In the pamphlet they appealed for support to the Adivasis from non-adivasi students in their fight against exploitation.

According to Prof. N.K. Bose, Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, poverty and exploitation are at the root of the tribal problem.

Government Employees Front

State Secretariat at Ranchi

In the month of September the central government employees went on a token strike in support of their demand for a better pay scale. In Ranchi some central government services were completely paralysed. The demand was -“Living wages – not a dying wages.” But many in other parts of the country were killed in the strike by the government machinery.
The two lakh non-gazetted employees strongly raised their voice twice this year in support of their demand for payment of D.A. at central government rates. In February there was a five days strike which was a complete success. In July again they went on a strike. It lasted for several days.

Heavy Engineering Corporation

Heavy Engineering Corporation

There was a good deal of trouble on the question of so called “separate accommodation” for the Muslims. In the Parliament the Government blamed RSS and Jana Sangh for the ugly incidents in HEC.
For HEC (especially for its Chairman) of course 1968 was a very bad year. After the brutal communal riots in 67 the communalists grew stronger in HEC. They opposed the socialistic ideas of Chairman KD Malaviya. Actually, Malaviya gave a good increase to production.

The midterm election is coming shortly. But there is no open electioneering by any party till now.

It seems that the Congress is not going to win in Ranchi even with the help of Indira Gandhi’s speeches. Jana Sangh is also not going to win after the incidents during the communal riots.

Some people now feel that votes should be given on the merit of the candidate but not on party lines.

We wish our readers a Happy Progressive New Year.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

New Republic, Ranchi, 11 January, 1969

New Republic 11 January 1969


2 Replies to “Ranchi in 1968”

  1. informative, interesting and focused on contemporary civic psyche and social narratives.last fifty years have seen huge water flow n in suwarnrekha,creation of capital, minister and bureaucrats,iim and national law university,but nothing else.still it doesn’t deserve to be a metropolitan city ora machinary on place to make some changes in yhe life of adibasi who fought in freedom struggle and later lured by Christian machinary, RSS trying to do something but nonstarter.

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