Skip to main content

Demand to withdraw sedition charge against 30,000 unnamed Adivasis, activists

Counterview Desk
Every 10th Adivasi of Jharkhand’s Pathalgadi area is charged with sedition, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM), a network of activists and people’s organisations, which organised a protest in Ranchi in front of the Governor's house, has said. In a statement following the protest on Monday, JMM has called for larger support to stand up against violations of Constitutional rights of Adivasis and use of sedition law as tool for repression.

Text:

Representatives of several people’s organisations from across Jharkhand gathered at tue Raj Bhawan to protest against the severe violations of Constitutional rights of Adivasis of Khunti district and the use of the sedition law as an instrument of repression. The dharna was organised by Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a network of activists and people’s organisations.
The dharna was attended by representatives of several organisations – Adivasi Women’s Network, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Right to Food Campaign, Bagaicha, Jan Sangharsh Samiti, Tribal Research and Training Centre (TRTC), Jharkhand Kisan Parishad, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, National Domestic Worker’s Union, Van Adhikar Manch, Sarvodaya Mitra Mandal and so on.
Several activists of the state – Arvind Avinash, Jean Dreze, BB Choudhary, Siraj Dutta, Jerome Kujur, Elina Horo, Bineet Mundu, David Solomon, Ambika Yadav, Jacinta Kerketta, Ranjeet Kindo, Saroj Hembram, Vinod Kumar, George Monippally, Vishwanath Azad, Sushma Biruli – participated in the dharna.
In the last two years, several Adivasi villages of the district, primarily in Khunti, Arki and Murhu blocks, did ‘Pathalgadi’. Based on traditional practice of the Munda community and drawing from Constitutional provisions of Fifth Schedule and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), stone plaques (pathals), painted with legal guarantees for Adivasis and rules formulated by the Gram Sabha, were erected at the entrance of the villages.
The stone slabs quote sections of the Indian Constitution and PESA that give special protections to Adivasis and recognize the Gram Sabha as the basis of self-rule in tribal-dominated areas. For example, Adivasis have the primary right over their natural resources – Jal, Jangal, Zameen.
The plaques also mention some locally formed rules such as restricted entry to outsiders. Some interpretations of the Constitutional provisions, mentioned on the slabs, are definitely unusual and also, may be, impractical.
Instead of attempting to dialogue with the people of these villages on these interpretations, and their demands, the government has responded with severe repression and violence. In 2018, police raided several villages that had done Pathalgadi.
They attacked Ghaghra village in Murhu during a Pathalgadi ceremony. They vandalised houses and severely beat people, including women, children and a deaf man. One pregnant woman who was beaten delivered a baby with disabilities. Two persons were shot; one of whom died. Many other Pathalgadi villages also saw police violence in the last two years.
The police has randomly picked up villagers on the pretext of “questioning” them. Police camps have been setup in at least nine schools and two community buildings, without the permission of the respective Gram Sabhas.
Terming Pathalgadi as a wrong interpretation of Constitutional provisions, the police has charged 30,000 unnamed people under several draconian laws, including sedition. According to the government, almost 10% of the total population of the three blocks is anti-national!
People of the region are not able to freely share violations of their rights as they are scared that they may be named in the FIRs.
Well-known academic Jean Dreze, addressing the dharna, said, “The brutal manner in which the Jharkhand government is dealing with the pathalgadi movement is a case of gross of over-reaction to legitimate and nonviolent demands from the local adivasis. The tradition of self-government in Khunti should be valued and celebrated.”
The government also considers people who raise questions on violations of Adivasi rights as seditious. Jharkhand government charged 20 people, including activists, writers and journalists, with sedition only because they had raised questions, on social media, on the government’s actions in Pathalgadi villages and attack on Adivasi rights.
Recently, warrants were issued against four of them – Stan Swamy, Vinod Kumar, Aloka Kujur and Rakesh Roshan Kido – who have always fought for Adivasi rights. Poet Jacinta Kerketta said, “the government should stop labelling voices of dissent as sedition. It is a violation of right to expression”.
The assertion of Khunti’s people through Pathalgadi has roots in the long history of alienation of land and exploitation of Adivasis in Jharkhand. Based on conservative estimates, at least 1.5 million people have been displaced in the state due to alienation of land between 1951 and 1995. Of these, 41% were Adivasis.
In the last few decades, Khunti district itself has seen several attempts for forceful acquisition of land for various projects such as construction of Koel-Karo hydroelectric dams and Arcelor-Mittal steel plant.
Both these projects had to be scrapped after public protests. There are also long standing grievances against the failure of the state to protect the distinctive social and cultural identity of the Adivasis.
According to the government, almost 10% of the total population of three Jharkhand blocks is anti-national
In the last five years, there have been continuous attack on Constitutional rights of Adivasis across the state. There have been several attempts to weaken the powers of Gram Sabhas in various acts.
The government repeatedly tried to weaken the Chhotanagpur and Santhal Tenancy Acts that provide protection to Adivasis right to their land. The government also formulated the land bank policy that creates a pool of land owned by Gram Sabhas to be offered to corporates without the approval of the people.
At one end, the BJP-led state government continues to violate provisions of Fifth Schedule left, right and centre and runs away from implementing PESA. On the other end, the Prime Minister is busy creating news by bowing before the Constitution (book) before entering the Parliament.
Adivasi Women’s Network’s Elina Hora said at the end of the dharna, “The Jharkhand government should immediately check severe violations of human rights across the state in the form of violations of Adivasi rights, mob lynchings and attacks on women."
TRTC’s Ranjit Kindo said, “we will always protest against the anti-people policies of the government. That’s a basic necessity of democracy”.
At the end of the dharna, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha submitted a memorandum to the Governor with the following demands:
  • The government must immediately withdraw all frivolous FIRs filed against the thousands of unnamed residents of Khunti and activists on charges of sedition. It must also undertake judicial inquiry into the charges framed against the named people in the FIRs. It must make public all the evidence that formed the basis for these FIRs and the evidence collected in all related inquiries since then.
  • The government should undertake judicial inquiry into the violence unleashed by security forces in Ghaghra and other villages and ensure punitive action against the personnel responsible for the human rights abuses. It must ensure compensation to victims of human rights violations in these villages.
  • The government should initiate dialogue with representatives of the Pathalgadi villages, Adivasi organisations and experts on the Constitution.
  • The government must ensure immediate implementation of all provisions of Fifth schedule and PESA in letter and spirit.

Comments

TRENDING

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad "declared support" to two-nation theory in 1937, followed by Jinnah three years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Post-Balakot, danger that events might spiral out of control is 'greater, not less'

By Tapan Bose*
The fear of war in South Asia is increasing. Tensions are escalating between India and Pakistan after the Indian defence minister's announcement in August this year that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. According to some experts who are watching the situation the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.

'Favouring' tribals and ignoring Adivasis? Behind coercion of India's aborigines

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Tribal people account for 8.2% of India’s population. They are spread over all of India’s States and Union Territories. Even so they can be broadly classified into three groupings. The first grouping consists of populations who predate the Indo-Aryan migrations. These are termed by many anthropologists as the Austro-Asiatic-speaking Australoid people.