Will the Cauldron Bubble Again In Jharkhand?

 |  Written by jcsawm  |  0
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~ P. A. Chacko S.J.

Jharkhand Governor Droupadi Murmu’s returning unsigned the CNT-SPT Amendment Bill of the state legislature appears to be another milestone in the long string of successful tribal movements these past two centuries have witnessed. The ‘cauldron bubble’ set in motion by the rightwing BJP led Raghubar Das government has been quarantined at least for the time being due to the tsunami wave of protests from the Jharkhandis. On July 3rd the government announced the withdrawal of the provisions which were meant to empower the government to convert agricultural land into non-agricultural, read commercial, purpose. Whether the state government’s tactical move is a temporary truce to douse the tribal anger and will the BJP cauldron bubble again are to be seen.

 

With a wafer-thin majority in the 81 member House the Das government passed the Bill by voice vote on Nov. 23, 2016. The fractured opposition was taken for a ride as its weak-lunged dissent was drowned in the voice vote.  It is also reported that the Tribal Advisory Council, consisting of most of the tribal legislators, had earlier passed the government’s proposal after discussing it. That was where the tribal politicians went napping and woke up later when the wave of common people’s fury began to engulf Jharkhand.

Joining hands with the common cause of the Jharkhandi adivasis were men and women of different walks of life, voluntary agencies, various religious communities and student organisations. Cardinal Telephone Toppo of Ranchi headed a delegation to the Governor pointing out the human right aspect of people’s resistance. It was a timely response of the church which felt that in this sad predicament people cannot be left in the lurch.

The tribals have every reason to resist the bulldozing state. Their tribal homeland is not BJP’s or Sang Parivar’s patrimonial bounty. Two centuries of tribal unrests and uprisings against exploitation of money lenders, land grabbers and cunning business conglomerates had not gone in vain. The blood of tribal leaders like Sido-Kanhu, Birsa Munda and other tall leaders still runs in the veins of today’s tribals.

 

The indigenous people know very well that the alien world of exploiters in the garb of modern rulers and their business gangs is out to displace and decimate them. Already the indigenous population which was claimed to be over 70% a few decades earlier has been reduced to 26% in the state. In order to reduce this number further the Das government has introduced the local residential policy by granting residential permit to outsiders for flimsy reasons. Many adivasis also realise that the move of the state government to dispossess them of their ancestral land is within the agenda of the national federal government to create Hindu nation. In many ways the indigenous are told that they are fallen away Hindus and, hence, ought to get back to the family fold (Ghar Wapsi) or face the consequences. Anti-conversion propaganda and ban on beef-eating, beating or killing people suspected of beef consumption are terrorising tactics.

 

In a recent post Jharkhand-based Jesuit colleague Stan Lourdusamy points out that, ‘From the time of independence up to now a staggering of 2.4 million acres of land has been forcibly acquired all in the name of development. Consequently 1.7 million adivasis have been displaced. The sad fact is not a single adivasi person or community has ever been rehabilitated... Only minimal cash compensation was thrust upon them and after that they were neatly forgotten.’  In addition, illegal mines and quarries dotting Jharkhand by hoodwinking innocent tribals and in connivance with the bureaucracy are monuments of mockery.   The wealth of Jharkhand with its 40% mineral wealth share in India is appropriated by non-adivasis in connivance with the bureaucracy-politician complex. According to Jharkhand-based news agency, Prabhat Khabar of June 2017, more than 1000 fake land deeds of past 16 years have been unearthed.’ This is but a tip of the iceberg!

The state governor being a tribal could very well understand the harm such a bill poised for legislation will do to the tribals. No wonder, even as she had her political affiliation to the ruling party, she justifiably expressed her tribal sentiments by returning the bill with the appropriate query: “How will it benefit the tribals.”

If the BJP cauldron bubbles again, one can be sure that the unanimous wave of emotional bond to their ancestral land demonstrated by men, women and children spilling out on to every public space and crying foul will take Himalayan proportions!

 

{The author is the in-charge of Arrupe Tibal Culture Centre & Mission, Bhognadih, Shaibganj, Jharkhand}