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Immediately withdraw pending pathalgadi cases, including on late Stan Swamy: JJM

By Our Representative 

According to a recent RTI reply by the Superintendent of Police of Khunti, five pathalgadi cases of Khunti are yet to be withdrawn. It also includes the case registered against 20 activists and intellectuals, including Stan Swamy. Also, according to the RTI reply, another pathalgadi related case was registered in Khunti in March 2020 under the current Hemant Soren government. Of the total 21 cases registered by the Raghubar Das government in Khunti, 16 have been withdrawn.
The pathalgadi movement was istarted by tribals of the Khunti district of Jharkhand as a resistance movement to assert their rights over water, forest and land following the Central government’s two ordinances, promulgated in 2016, which enabled transfer of tribal land to the government as well as for commercial purposes.
As a symbol of their resistance, the tribals erected stones erected, starting with the tribal villages of Khunti district, the birthplace of legendary tribal leader Birsa Munda. The ordinances were withdrawn. Pathalgadi literally translates to 'carving a stone', telling “outsiders” that the they owned jal-jangal-jameen as their constitutional right and not any outsiders.
On 29 December 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 wrong charges that include abetment, obstruction to public servants discharging their duty, creation of public nuisance, criminal intimidation and even sedition. 28 FIRs related to pathalgadi spread across Khunti (21), Saraikela-Kharsawan (5) and West Singhbhum (2) districts were registered by the Raghubar Das government.
Even though it took many years for the cases to be withdrawn, it was considered a positive action taken by the Hemant Soren government. “But it is worrying that five cases are still pending. Chief Minister Soren had strongly protested against the incarceration of Stan Swamy by the Modi government, but the fake case registered against him by the Raghuvar Das government is yet to be withdrawn”, says a civil society network Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM) note.
According to JJM, “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”, it adds.
Believes JJM, “Also, the state government, as per public expectation, is yet to address the issues raised during the pathalgadi movement such as widespread violation of special laws and provisions for Adivasis (PESA, Fifth Schedule, Land Acquisition Act, CNT Act etc.), marginalization of Adivasi world view, exploitation of Adivasis by the police, administration and non-Adivasis and so on.”
Meanwhile, the JJM has demanded the following from the Hemant Soren government:
  • Immediate withdrawal of all five pending pathalgadi cases, action against human rights violations in Khunti and compensation to victims.
  • Strict implementation of special laws and provisions for Adivasis such as PESA, Fifth Schedule, Land Acquisition Act, CNT Act and so on in letter and spirit.

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