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Imposed by ex-BJP govt, why Jharkhand CM isn't dropping Pathalgadi cases? NGO meet

Counterview Desk

Following a state-level seminar on December 11, the civil rights organisation Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM) has issued a detailed statement criticising the Hemant Soren government for failing to withdraw Pathalgadi cases even a year after he announced he would do it. Many Adivasis, including a few traditional heads, continue to be in jail, it said, adding, Right to Information (RTI) pleas suggest 30 FIRs related to Pathalgadi have still not been withdrawn.
Stating that one reason why the former BJP government under Raghubar Das was defeated was it came in for heavy criticism for “violence and repression” on the movement, which puts up adivasi villages independent entities under the Indian Constitution, the statement said, JMM regretted, the district authorities have recommended withdrawal of only about 60% of the total cases.

Text:

On December 29, 2019, Chief Minister Hemant Soren, right after taking oath, announced withdrawal of all Pathalgadi cases. The announcement was met with widespread appreciation and support. The earlier Jharkhand government, headed by Chief Minister Raghubar Das, had come down heavily on the Pathalgadi movement and responded with severe violence and repression.
It had filed several cases against the people associated with the movement and also several Adivasi traditional heads of the villages. The police filed several cases against about 200 named accused and more than 10,000 unnamed people under charges that include abetment, obstruction to public servants discharging their duty, creation of public nuisance, criminal intimidation and even sedition.
However, a year after the announcement, the cases are yet to be withdrawn and many Adivasis, including a few traditional heads, continue to be in jail. Right to Information applications filed in the last few months show that there are 30 FIRs, spread across Khunti (23), Saraikela-Kharsawan (5) and West Singhbhum (2) districts, related to Pathalgadi cases.
The district committee, comprising the deputy commissioner, superintendent of police and public prosecutor, has recommended withdrawal of only about 60% of the total cases (excluding the two cases related to Kochang gangrape incident). In addition to this, the Khunti district committee has recommended removal of only section 124A/120A/B from seven cases. Regarding action on the recommendations sent by the districts, the home department has simply said that it is under process.
Hemant Soren government’s announcement to withdraw all Pathalgadi cases indicated that it acknowledged the failure of the earlier Raghubar Das government to understand the movement and also wanted to undo the wrong response of the earlier government. However, the recommendation of districts to withdraw just over half the cases and the delay in withdrawing the cases indicate that the political decision of the government is yet to fully translate into action on ground.
During the Vidhan Sabha election campaign, the mahagathbandhan parties, led by Hemant Soren, had strongly flagged the state government’s repressive policies and relentless attacks on Adivasis (such as incidents of police atrocities, lynching and so on). It is disappointing to note that neither has the Hemant Soren government acted on earlier cases of violations nor has it shown a firm commitment to check violations under its leadership.
Victims of repression unleashed in the Pathalgadi villages by the earlier government are yet to get justice. Ghaghra’s Asrita Mundu who gave birth to a physically disabled daughter after being beaten by the security forces, during her pregnancy, is yet to receive any compensation. Similarly, action against personnel responsible for the violence (including killing of Adivasis such as Birsa Munda and Abraham Soy) are yet to be held accountable. The police is yet to find the perpetrators of murder of activists and traditional heads associated with the Pathalgadi movement such as Ramji Munda, Sukhram Munda and Amit Topno.
In the last one year, human rights violations have continued taking place. The most glaring example is severe beating of 20 Adivasis of West Singhbhum district’s Chiriyabera by CRPF in June 2020. 11 were severely beaten and three sustained grievous injuries. The CRPF, accusing the villagers to be Maoists and enraged by their inability to respond in Hindi, beat them using wooden sticks, batons, rifle butts and boots. Even though the victims clearly told the police at the hospital that they were brutally beaten by CRPF personnel, the FIR filed by the police obscures many facts of the incident and makes no mention of the role of the CRPF in the violence. 
Hemant Soren government won a decisive mandate against the previous BJP government’s repressive and anti-people policies
The FIR is yet to be rectified, action against the CRPF personnel yet to be taken and victims are yet to receive any compensation. Representations were repeatedly submitted to the DC, SP and DGP. In the last one year, there have been several other incidents across the state of violence on people by security forces.
In addition to this, falsely accusing Adivasis, poor people and activists of being Maoists continues to be the norm for the security forces. Cases of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been on the rise. It is disappointing that the Jharkhand government is yet to check the blatant misuse of UAPA by the police. Several daily-wage labourers and farmers of Lalpania (Bokaro) who have been vocal against exploitation of Adivasis-Moolvasis were booked as Maoists and under UAPA in the last few years. They are still struggling to get bail and to prove their innocence.
Another glaring example of state’s inaction is the continuing incidents of beating of people, especially Adivasis and Muslims, on accusations of consuming / selling beef. Under the earlier government, at least 24 people, most accused of selling / consuming beef or cattle theft, were lynched. The pattern seems to continue under the current regime. In July 2020, Adivasi were beaten by mob on suspicion of selling / consuming beef in Duma and Jamshedpur.
In September 2020, seven Adivasis of Simdega were beaten, tonsured and made to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. In several cases, victims are yet to be paid compensation and there is an attempt by the police to shield the perpetrators. The government is yet to implement Supreme Court’s order in Tahseen Poonawala case on the subject including provisions such as speedy trial, grant of interim compensation within 30 days, investigation to be monitored by SP and so on.
Mahasabha would like to remind the Hemant Soren government that it won a decisive mandate against the earlier government’s repressive and anti-people policies. It is expected that the government stands firmly with the people against all forms of exploitation and human rights violation. We sincerely hope that the government reins in the security forces and makes the state apparatus pro-Adivasi and pro-people.
Mahasabha demands the following from the Jharkhand government:
  • Immediate withdrawal of Pathalgadi cases, action against human rights violations in Khunti and compensation to victims.
  • Judicial inquiry into the Chiriyabera incident, strict disciplinary action against all administrative, police and CRPF personnel responsible for the violence and inaction and compensation to victims. 
  • Jharkhand government should clearly instruct the local administration and security forces to not exploit people, especially Adivasis, in any way. All incidents of human rights violations by the state apparatus should be strictly dealt with. People should not be harassed by security forces under the garb of anti-Naxal operations. 
  • Local administration and security forces should be taught about Adivasi languages, customs, culture and worldview and the government should ensure their sensitivity towards Adivasis. 
  • Implementation of Supreme Court guidelines against lynching in letter and spirit, action against perpetrators and police personnel shielding the perpetrators, compensation to victims and formulation of law against lynching. 
  • Activate the defunct state human rights commission and make it accessible to the people. Set up an independent grievance redress mechanism especially for cases of human rights violations.

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