In his magnum opus Bharat Bharti, Rashtrakavi Maithilisharan Gupt writes, “Ham kaun the, kya ho gaye hain, aur kya honge abhi, Aao vicharen aaj mil kar, yah samasyayen sabhi”. This roughly translates as, “What we were, what have we become, and what shall we be in future? Let’s think it over together, all these problems.”

The poet had penned this more than hundred years ago urging the people of Bharatvarsha to come together to discuss the decline of the once ever-flourishing and illustrious Indian civilization. Even today, this poetic advice of, one of India’s genuinely genius minds, and a peerless patriotic poet, continue to hold a profound relevance for the Nation at large.

Particularly, if the poet’s idea is to be decentralized for a more impactful understanding of the different regions of the Country and the problems persisting therein, its relevance in today’s time for the people of Bihar, one of India‟s prominent provinces, having a matchless historical legacy, is stronger than ever before. It’s high time for its people, particularly its young populace, to contemplate over the illustrious past of their ancestors, to ruminate over the reasons that led to the present days decline and march ahead enthusiastically for fetching a fabulously phenomenal future. If the people from this part of India which was once the Country’s educational and cultural centre are now pejoratively addressed as ‘Bihari’ within the Country itself, it certainly invites a serious introspection from its young generation.

The people of this great land, which was once the epicenter of global learning, military might, administrative prowess, entrepreneurial spirit and the political centre of an Indian Empire that stretched beyond Afghanistan in the west and went up to Assam in the East, apart from Kashmir in the North to the Sea coast in the south of the subcontinent, appear to be civilizationally clueless today. Its primordial potential, it seems, is petering out, as its people’s dwindling disconnect with the province’s prestigious past is getting deeper day by day. This disconnect has to be dismantled and the connection re-established in order for its people to generate any possibility of playing a pivotal role to bring Bihar back to the centre-stage of the Country and hence contribute its own positive part in India’s continuing journey towards becoming an unrivalled global power.

Today’s Bihar has multidimensional problems to be confronted with, and the only hope to triumph this half-lost battle is from its youth population. For the pervasive darkness to be dispelled, for the present-days miasma to cease existing, the young people have to rise above the mediocrity, see things as it is and not fall for the prevalent political obscurantism that puts all its might to prevent people from seeing the truth, desert their parochial tendency and adopt a broad-mindedness to develop better perspectivism, give up the indolence that is perishing their potential, and finally a spirit of ikigai needs to be nurtured within.

‘Let’s Inspire Bihar’ is a recently initiated apolitical campaign to obtain these righteous objectives. Ideated by the Senior IPS Officer Mr. Vikas Vaibhav, also popularly known as the heritage-hero of Bihar, the campaign seeks to inspire the youth population of Bihar to help them realize their true potential, and then positively utilize that potential in order to change the present state of affairs, drawing inspiration from the illustrious legacy of their own ancestors. The shift in the presently-prevalent thought process among the youth populace, must lead to what Vikas Vaibhav explains as “3Es” i.e. Education, Egalitarianism and Entrepreneurship. The method to achieve these “3Es” must pass through what the officer describes as “3Ds” i.e. Desire, Dedication and Determination.

On being asked about why he feels the need to have such a campaign in the first place, the officer explains, “During my recent interactions with the youth in different parts of Bihar, whenever I have tried to ascertain their views and thinking about the future prospects and potential of Bihar, there is a general sense of pessimism seems to be creeping within and is gradually even getting established within the young minds. The reasons for such creeping pessimism are not far to seek when the problems and complexities of the present day one is often confronted with, seem to be unassailable. It is seen that youth often get demotivated from working hard when they encounter most around them looking for shortcuts and unfair means to achieve success. Deeply rooted caste based identities hamper the growth of a holistic society and it is not just politics which is affected by the problem but it is seen to have permeated into all walks and dimensions of social life resulting in overall discriminatory behaviours and preferences.”

On being further asked, where does he derive his inspiration from, the soft-spoken officer known for his intellectual bent of mind says, “The optimism is centred upon the message from the Heritage of Bihar. As the journey continues, the Heritage of Bihar, with its message for the present and the future, has inspired me right from the days of my early childhood. I have had different encounters with the ugly side of the present picture and situation at different stages of life, but, the optimism emanating from the Heritage has always prevailed and assured that things will definitely change for the better if we continue to keep moving in the right direction.”

The first of the “3Es” that this outstandingly intelligent officer has proposed, stands for ‘Education’. He says, “The students need to focus upon „Education‟ in the spirit of ‘knowledge’ and should not look for shortcuts to success. They should work very hard like our ancestors Ashtavakra, Yagyavalkya, Chanakya, Aryabhatta and many others, who in their days, inspired the whole generation of the time. They have inspired me. I named my son as Yagyavalkya, just to remind the present generation, and to inspire my son.”

The second of the “3Es” stands for ‘Egalitarianism’. Explaining this Vaibhav says, “In Bihar, the youth are seen as divided and are mentally diverted to inculcate from deemed role models, who are criminals, mostly since they come from a particular caste or community. Everything is divided with every action or inaction, being attributed to someone due to his being, from some particular caste. Such division is not going to solve any problems, however so much we may wish or keep trying. We will need to get rid of it if we are to progress ahead and that would need inspiration and of course – “Leadership, by example!” If we want to derive lessons from the past for an illustrious future, such things will definitely have to change. In all our interactions, in our behaviour, in our thinking, we will have to make a fundamental shift towards egalitarianism.”

And the third and the final of the “3Es” stands for ‘Entrepreneurship’. Explaining this idea of entrepreneurship, the initiator of the ‘Let’s Inspire Bihar’ campaign, elucidates, “The last, but, the most important “E”, is working towards developing a sense of “Entrepreneurship”. It is something that was our forte in the ancient times, when we had cities like Champa and Patliputra, which were centres of trade for the ancient world. In those years when technology and communication were still undeveloped, we could physically control such vast tracts in the subcontinent and were able to make influence in places and nations far wide, even in such distant places like Korea, Thailand and others in South East Asia. That spirit of entrepreneurship seems to have been somewhere lost over the years and it is thus that we hear of students graduating with double degrees from IIT and becoming Railway gang-men, only supposedly for the security offered by a government job, no matter whatsoever the skill set may be required for such. The youth need to develop the spirit of entrepreneurship and do something which is innovative. The youth will have to think of solutions and solve the current impasse and lead themselves towards building a better future.”

The officer deeply believes in the potentiality of heritage and the positivity that emanates from it because he himself has realized its power on personal note. When in December 2006, he was posted in Bagaha as its Superintendent of Police, the region was notoriously known for its organized crime syndicate. Dacoit gangs used to freely operate in the areas as it was infamously addressed as ‘Mini Chambal’. Initially, Vikas Vaibhav conducted regular raids at their hideouts, destroyed their financial backbone, but gradually realized that such run off the mill methods cannot lead to a permanent solution. And thus he thought something that was unique in the history of Indian policing. He undertook an initiative to help connect the community with their history and heritage. By instilling a sense of pride about their past, the officer commenced a psychological change in the community.

He himself narrates, “Bagaha had a history of remembering Valmiki. The jungles of Valmiki Nagar were supposed to have been home to a sage, who once was a bandit, by the name of Ratnakar. We appealed to the families of all the criminals in the area that if Ratnakar had remained as Ratnakar, he would soon have faded from collective memory and the world would never have known Valmiki. They should try to think about the future they wanted to deliver to their children and try to motivate their relatives who had been misguided and had left the mainstream of society by entering into organised crime. The inspiration from History worked and the scheme of affairs did change. Twenty-six of them surrendered, with one of them having more than 135 cases registered against in different parts of Bihar and UP. Bagaha changed since 2007. Kidnappings used to be in 100s, 50s, like. I remember, in 2008, the figure had come down to zero, with an intervention connecting with history.”

The scenes and the sequence repeated in Rohtas, another district where Vaibhav got posted in the yesr 2008. The district was in turmoil and a part of it infested with Maoist insurgents. Before his arrival in Rohtas, two of its Police Stations had been razed by Maoists killing several Policemen. The things had been continuing like this since long and the administration was clueless as to how the crime rate should be curtailed and the Maoist nexus be eliminated. Again for Vaibhav, history and heritage showed him the necessary light. He started off a campaign called ‘Sone-Mahotsav’ for motivating the community to connect back to their history and heritage. Rohtas Fort was the fulcrum of this heritage-consciousness campaign. The people of Rohtas, particularly the tribals living there right within and around the fort upon the hills in severely affected naxal territory, the Oraons, the Kharwars, always connected themselves with their heritage, with the fort, considering it as their point of origin. The officer thought of using their connectedness to their advantage, for establishing a final peace in the region. He started organizing community policing camps, and, in all those areas without naming the Naxalites, they would talk of history of the region, how illustrious their ancestors were, and how the present was so perplexed, and, what such descendants of such illustrious ancestors should do, or could do, to change the present. Finally, the things changed. On 26th of January, 2009, Vikas Vaibhav was able to hoist the tricolour on the top of the Rohtas fort. Previously, on such national occasions, it used to witness black flags. In great many numbers, the Maoists also surrendered, and now the region is peaceful in terms of Maoist activities.

So, this was the power of the people, the power of the history and heritage and a realisation of relatedness to it that only needed to be invoked by someone for a better and significant change in the lives of the people. If such an idea can be implemented on a Pan-Bihar level, it is destined to bring a bright future to the State and its people that they so importantly deserve.

However, Vikas Vaibhav cautions the people the thin line of distinction between taking inspiration from the past and imbibing the past. He says, “We have to take lessons from the past, but that does not mean that we have to imbibe the past. We have to think about the present, that, how things are, and then have aspirations for the future. This spirt of positivity inspired by the past Heritage of Bihar and the personal experience regarding its potential in transforming the present and the future is in crux the motivation and thinking behind “Let’s Inspire Bihar!”

So in crux, ‘Let’s Inspire Bihar’ is a clarion call for the youth of Bihar to take a leaf out of their ancestors‟ book and re-establish the gone glory of Bihar. The presently prevalent ossified state of affairs needs to change. This indolence and inertia need to break. And who better than young people can there be for espousing this noble cause? Remember that famous dialogue from Christopher Nolan Masterpiece ‘Prestige’ that, ‘A man’s reach exceed his grasp’?

The youth of Bihar has infinite potential and that must be used, because as the popular saying goes, ‘There is more honour in defeat than in unused potential.’ Let’s Inspire Bihar.

Rohit Kumar

Rohit Kumar is a law graduate, an RTI activist and a former SBI Youth for India Fellow (2017-18) Batch.