Governance

Jharkhand govt must engage with Khunti citizens, protestors demand

Activists want withdrawal of FIRs, sedition charges in response to Pathalgadi movement

 
By Kundan Pandey
Last Updated: Monday 22 July 2019
Photo: Priya Ranjan Sahu

Every tenth person in the sites of ‘Pathalgadi’ by tribal communities face sedition charges, alleged protestors in Jharkhand. The police have invoked draconian laws, including allegations of sedition, against 30,000 unnamed people, they claimed.

The tribal protestors demonstrated in front of the Raj Bhavan — the guvernatorial seat — in Ranchi on July 22, 2019.

Those at the receiving end are mostly from Khunti, Arki and Murhu blocks of Khunti district, where ‘Pathalgadi’ was at its peak in recent years.

“The brutal manner in which the Jharkhand government is dealing with the Pathalgadi movement is a gross overreaction to legitimate and nonviolent demands from local adivasis,” development economist Jean Dreze, who has been working in the region for several years, said. The tradition of self-government should be valued and celebrated, he added.

Residents of more than 100 villages have put up stone plaques at village entrances to claim the power granted to Gram Sabhas under the constitutional provisions of the Fifth Schedule and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA).

The special provisions are to protect the local community in tribal areas and recognise the role of Gram Sabha in self rule as reported extensively by Down To Earth.

The movement, however, has not gone down well with the state government, which has come down hard on some locals (includign a few intellectuals) who advocated the movement. Twenty such persons, including journalists and writers, face police cases allegedly for raising the issue on public fora.

The tribal community as well as experts have pointed out that Pathalgadi originated in 2015-16, when the government tried to take away land. People protesting under the umbrella of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a network of activists and people’s organisations.

Some 1.5 million people of Jharkhand were displaced, 41 per cent of whom were tribals.

In the last few decades, there have been several alleged attempts to grab land in the name of development projects (Koel-Karo hydroelectricity dams, Arcelor-Mittal steel plant, etc) in Khunti.

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