Skip to main content

Jharkhand cops "forced" village headman to sign land acquisition papers or face tune

Sukhram Munda
Counterview Desk
A village headman of Kochang in Khunti district of Jharkhand, Sukhram Munda, in an interview with prominent tribal rights activist Gladson Dungdung, pointing towards the type of oppression faced by the tribal people, has said that he himself was a victim when, on his return from the state capital Ranchi, police caught him and was forcibly asked him to on a land acquisition paper.
“They threatened me to imprison in the false charges of participating in Pathalgari Movement if I disobey them. They said that once I was imprisoned, I would never get out of the jail”, he said, adding, as he was “already facing four false cases” and was afraid of the consequences, he “signed” papers. Hence, they allowed him to go scot-free late at 11 pm.
Belonging to the village which shot into prominent mid-last year for the infamous gang-rape incident, Munda said, following the incident, too, he was harassed. “A police camp was set up in school of my village. I have given land for school in free of cost, but another 14 decimals of my land were grabbed for construction of toilet for Jawans (constables) without my consent and compensation.”

Text of the interview: 

Gladson: How did you join the Pathalgari Movement (Movement for installation of stone slab)?
Sukhram: We were not aware about the provisions of the Indian Constitution. When we heard about the Pathalgadi Movement, some members of the Gram Sabha (village council) participated in some meetings of the Pathalgari Movement, and found is as crucial for the village to protect our land, territory and resources because our area comes under the Fifth Scheduled of the Constitution, where land cannot be acquired without the consent of Gram Sabha. Soon, I conducted a Gram Sabha’s meeting to discuss on Pathalgadi, where all members participated and agreed to install a stone slab at the entrance of our village. Thereafter, we collected the money and bought a stone slab, where the constitutional provisions were curved and installed at the entrance of village on 25th February, 2018.
Gladson: The government authorities claim that Pathalgari Movement is unconstitutional. What is you respond to it?
Sukhram: I don’t think it is unconstitutional. In fact, we have curved the constitutional provision on the stone slab to educate and make aware our Adivasis. Pathalgari is our tradition. We install stone slabs in many social and cultural occasions.
Gladson: The Indian Media claimed that the Adivasis have put barricades at the entrance of the villages. The President of India, the Prime Minister, the Governor, the Chief Minister and other government authorities cannot enter in the village without permission of the Gram Sabha. They must pay tax to the Gram Sabha before entering to the village. Are these allegations true?
Sukhram: These are fake allegations. We have not stopped anyone from entering to our village. Everyone is freely moving here. There is no such barricade or tax system.
Gladson: Pathalgadi leader Joseph Purty had given a call to boycott the government’s welfare schemes, health and education facilities and developmental activities. Do you agree with him?
Sukhram: Kochang Gram Sabha is very clear about the Pathalgadi, which is good for our village to protect our natural resources but we are against of boycotting welfare schemes, health and education facilities and developmental activities. I have given my land for school in free of cost, health sub-center is being run in my house for last couple of decades and Aanganbadi centre was also in my house. Therefore, how can someone blame me of boycotting government’s schemes?
Gladson: You claim that Pathalgadi Movement is to protect land and other natural resources, can you tell me what kind of threat is on the village’s natural resources?
Sukhram: After Kochang gang-rape incident, a police camp was set up in school of my village. I have given land for school in free of cost but another 14 decimals of my land were grabbed for construction of toilet for jawans (constables) without my consent and compensation.
Gladson: Do you want compensation for your land?
Sukhram: No. I want my land back. How can the government acquire anybody’s land without his/her consent? I know that Adivasis will not survive with compensation. We need land for our existence.
Gladson: Did government take your consent for using school as the security camp?
Sukhram: No. It was done in the night. The para-military forces landed in the night and school was vacated. The teachers were told that their school is merged with the Middle school of Ruguddih village, which is four kilometers far from here.
Gladson: How many children were studying in school? Where are they now? have they shifted to the Middle School, Ruguddih?
Sukhram: 35-36 children of Kochang were studying in the school. Now, they have stopped going to school. The school is far so they don’t want to go. How will I convince them to go to school? This is denial of right to education of our children.
Gladson: Is there any other case of land grabbing in Kochang?
Sukhram: Yes. There is a major case of land grab. The government authorities are violating the power of Gram Sabha for grabbing land of the village. The government intends to setup a permanent police camp in the village but we are against of it. We don’t need a security camp. We are safe without the police.
Gladson: Can you tell me how the government authorities are violating the laws to grab the land in Kochang.
Sukhram: The Circle Officer (CO) of Arki block issued a notice to conduct the Gram Sabha’s meeting for acquisition of 2.47 acre of land for the construction of a community hall. We objected it because how can the CO issues such notice? Only the Gram Sabha has the power to call such meeting. We already have a community hall in the village therefor we don’t need one more community hall. We wanted to know that what kind of community hall the government is going to build in such a huge patch of land? We were surprised to know that government wants to acquire our land for the security camp under the guise of a community hall to avoid the protest, and when we started objecting, the government authorizes are suppressing our voices.
Gladson: Can you explain me how your voices were suppressed and what kind of power is being used to acquire the land?
Sukhram: I was harassed by the police. I’m under their surveillance. On October 29, 2018, I had gone to Ranchi to attend a seminar. While returning home, the police caught me in Khunti and I was taken to Khunti police station where the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Arki police station was also present. The OCs of Khunti and Arki forced me to sign on the land acquisition paper. They threatened me to imprison in the false charges of participating in Pathalgari Movement if I disobey them. They said that once I were imprisoned, I would never get out of the Jail. I’m already facing four false cases therefor I was afraid of them so signed on the land acquisition papers. They released me at 11 PM after signing the papers.
Gladson: What kind of cases you are facing?
Sukhram: All four cases are regarding the Pathalgari Movement. I was falsely accused of participating in some events of the Pathalgari Movement, where I was not part of but I was in Ranchi during those events. I have proof too. For instance, I was charged in a case of Kanki, where police personnel were hostage by the Gram Sabha but I was not present in Kanki that day. I was in Ranchi for treatment of my eyes.
Gladson: What happened after you were released from Khunti police station?
Sukhram: After going back to village. I called for the Gram Sabha’s meeting on 30th October 2018, obeying the CO’s order for land acquisition but the government officers did not turn up. Our time was wasted. On the next day, the OC of Arki police station arrived at Kochang’s village market with three Vehicles. Two vehicles are loaded with sarees and dhotis and another vehicle was full of police personnel. They distributed the cloths among men and women who were present in the village market and got their signature and thumb impression on blank papers. When some villagers asked them the reason for clothe distribution, they said that they are distributing clothes for ‘Sohrai’ festival. Later, we came to know that the document was converted as the Gram Sabha’s resolution for land acquisition. Immediately, we had a meeting in the village and sent a protest letter to the District Land Acquisition Officer, Khunti. I also met the DLAO, who told me that the Gram Sabha has given its consent for the land acquisition. He showed me the papers which I had signed in the police station and the villagers had singed and impressed their thumbs for receiving clothes. This is how we were cheated and betrayed.
Gladson: Now what will you do to protect the land?
Sukhram: We will fight till our last breath. We have no choice. We will also approach to the Jharkhand High Court.
Gladson: Are you not afraid of the government? The police camp is near your house are you safe? Is there any incident of police atrocity in the village?
Sukhram: Do we have any choice rather than fight for our survival? We have not yet faced any such atrocity in the village but it will not remain the same forever.
Gladson: The Pathalgari Movement is blamed for opium cultivation. While coming to Kochang, I saw opium plants both side of the road. What you have to say?
Sukhram: The Pathalgari Movement has nothing do with the opium cultivation. You have seen how opium is being cultivated in the region openly. The police camp is in Kochang and jawans go for patrolling everyday but they don’t destroy the opium plants. I’m surprised! I have told the police officers several times about it but they don’t bother for it. I don’t know why?
Gladson: Kochang village was defamed worldwide for gang rape. Can you tell me about it?
Sukhram: I don’t know much about it. The victims also did not meet me. I came to know about the unfortunate incident through newspaper only. But I can say that Fr Alphonse is innocent but he was falsely accused because he creates awareness among the Adivasis.

Comments

TRENDING

'Modi govt's assault on dissent': Foreign funds of top finance NGO blocked

By Rajiv Shah  In a surprise move, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has cancelled the foreign funding license of the well-known advocacy group, Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), known for critically examining India's finance and banking sectors from human rights and environmental angle.

Misleading ads 'manipulate, seduce, lure' to market unhealthy harmful food

By Our Representative  The Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPI) in its new report “50 Shades of Food Advertising” has sought to expose how seductive, luring, manipulative or deceptive these advertisements can be. Consequences of such advertising are increased intake of unhealthy food products that is associated with obesity and diabetes, it says. 

'Wedding of the century': What does Mukesh Ambani want to prove by such extravaganza?

By NS Venkataraman*  Mukesh  Ambani,   a renowned Indian industrialist who is said to be the richest person in India and  one of the richest persons in the world,   has just now conducted the wedding celebration of  his son in Mumbai,   with unheard level of lavishness in India.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

'Failure of governance': India, China account for 54% pollution-related deaths globally

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram*   A recent report jointly prepared by UNICEF and the independent research organization Health Effects Institute has been released, and the statistics within it are alarming. It states that in 2021, air pollution caused the deaths of 2.1 million Indians, including 169,000 children who hadn't yet fully experienced life. These figures are indeed distressing and raise questions about why there hasn't been more serious effort in this direction, putting policymakers to shame. 

'28% rise in sedition cases': Top global NGO alliance rates India's civil space 'repressed'

By Rajiv Shah Rating India's civic space as repressed , Civicus, a global civil society alliance, in its new report submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) on the state of civic space in the country has said that the use of sedition law against the Modi government’s critics continues. "Under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sedition cases have increased by 28 per cent with over 500 cases against more than 7,000 people", it says.

How US is using Tibetans to provoke conflict with China 'ignoring' India

By Lobsang Tenzin*  On July 12, US President Joe Biden signed the Resolve Tibet Act, and Tibetans cheered for it, believing that the law promotes a resolution of the dispute between Tibet and China. Is this true? First, let's look at the issue of the ownership of Tibet. 

Over 3.8 billion animals at risk: India on crossroad in animal welfare practices

By Rupali Soni*  In a collaborative effort, the India Animal Fund and Dasra have unveiled their report , "Our Shared Future | Securing Animal Welfare, Human Wellbeing, and Sustainability in India." This landscape report provides a thorough overview of animal welfare and underscores its indispensable role within India's socio-economic and ecological frameworks. It also illustrates how animal welfare is intricately intertwined with public health, labor welfare, and climate resilience.