The Right to Food Campaign (RFC), which is the apex body of tens of NGOs working on livelihood issues, has said that so far seven persons have died and 80 injured because of the “continued violence” and “repeated firing” by Jharkhand police on local people’s opposition to displacement in the villages of Gola, Badkagaon and the town of Khunti.
In a statement, RFC has said, over and above this, “large numbers of innocent people have also been arrested, criminalising people’s peaceful resistance movements and undermining democracy”, adding, all this is happening because of the “pro-corporate face of the Raghubar Das BJP government.”
“The Chief Minister of Jharkhand also gave a blatant, unlawful violent threat to those opposing the amendments in Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act (CNT-SPT) by saying that all those who stand against these amendments will be beaten up”, RFC says.
The statement alleges, “This is also in line with complete support being extended by BJP led governments in Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Gujarat to trigger-happy security forces and the shameless promotion of corporate profiteering in the name of development at the cost of life and livelihood of the people.”
The “first killings” took place at Gola, Ramgarh, on August 29, as villagers were protesting the displacement which was to follow soon after the private power plant owner “wanted the land for the installation of the second unit 63 MW coal-based thermal power plants near Gola”, and the police fired, leading to the death of two persons.
Then, in Badkagaon block of Hazaribag district four people were killed in a police firing on October 1. Here, people were protesting the acquisition of land and displacement by National Thermal Power Corporation for their Pakri-Barwadih coal mine.
Further, on the on October 22, one person was killed, when people were protesting against the BJP government’s ordinance to amend the CNT-SPT Act, “which have been in existence since the British period to protect the lands from outsiders”, says RFC. This happened even as the tribals from Khunti were going to Ranchi to protest against the amendment, and the police opened fine.
Meanwhile, quoting reports, RFC says, after the October 1 violence at Badkagaon block of Hazaribag, the police and rapid action force (RAF) to “continue to wage violence on innocent villagers”, adding, “People are being picked up randomly on the pretext that they were part of the agitation.”
“In the fear of police violence a number of families have fled from the villages or have sent the women and children somewhere else”, RFC says, adding, “At the heart of the recent killings is the state’s bid to forcefully acquire land for setting up infrastructure projects, mining and the state’s own discomfort with the laws governing and protecting the rights of the tribals over their land, water, forests and minerals.”
“There is a growing unrest in Jharkhand today, which will only lead to more deaths and killings”, believes RFC, adding, “The tribals in the state are already facing acute hunger and the deaths and further bid of conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes is only going to make the situation worse.”
Quoting a recent Rapid Survey on Children of the Government of India, RFC says, “53% Adivasi children in Jharkhand are malnourished (stunted) and 41% adolescent girls have a low body mass index.”
Those who have signed the RFC’s statement include Kavita Srivastava and Dipa Sinha (Conveners Right to Food Campaign), Annie Raja (National Federation for Indian Women), Colin Gonsalves (Human Right Law Network), Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Anjali Bhardwaj (National Campaign for People’s Right to Information), Madhuresh, Arundhati Dhuru and Ulka Mahajan (National Alliance of People’s Movements), and others.