CM Hemant Soren Let Down ‘Adivasi’ Rights; JJM

Soon after taking the oath as a chief minister of Jharkhand, Hemant Soren had announced that he will withdraw all cases against the tribal for being involved Pathalgadi which is precisely known for their ritual of honouring their ancestors by erecting stone slabs that had effectively prohibited the entry of administrations in some places. This movement was suppressed by then Raghubar Das government which had come down heavily on the Pathalgadi movement and responded with massive police action after which several cases were filed against those who took part in the commotion, including several Adivasi local leaders.

Cases were filed against 200 named and over 10,000 unnamed people for alleged abetment and obstruction of public servants from discharging their duty, creation of public nuisance, criminal intimidation, and sedition also. The moment, chief minister Hemant Soren announced the withdrawal, was lauded widespread. However, even after a year, the cases are still on, and yet to be withdrawn and many Adivasis protestors are continuing to be in jail.

After seeing a year of current government performance, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), organised a state level seminar in the capital to discuss and take next course of action against the ruling JMM led government which fails to fulfil its own made promises. There are 30 FIRs across Khunti, Saraikela, Kharsawan and west Singhbhum still active, an RTI report filed few months ago reveal.

According to the rights body, the Hemant government’s announcement of withdrawing all Pathalgadi cases indicated that it acknowledged the failure of the earlier government to understand the idea behind the movement and, therefore, undo the damage done. “However, the recommendation of districts to withdraw just over half the cases and subsequent delays indicate that the political decision of the government is yet to fully translate into action on ground,” the statement noted.

In assembly election campaign last year, the Mahagathbandhan, led by Hemant Soren, had labeled the then BJP-led state government’s repressive policies and relentless attacks on adivasis, mentioning police atrocities and incidents of lynching. But it is disappointing to note that neither has the Hemant government acted on earlier cases of violations nor has it shown a firm commitment to check violations under its leadership,” noted tribal activist Dayamani Barla said in the seminar.

The activists also added that in the last year, rights violations against tribal have continued, the most glaring instant being the severe assault on 20 adivasis of Chiriyabera in West Singhbhum in June 2020.

“Eleven people were severely beaten and three underwent severe injuries. The CRPF, accusing the villagers of being Maoists and enraged by their inability to respond in Hindi, beat them up using wooden sticks, batons, rifle butts and boots. Even though the victims clearly told police at the hospital that they were brutally beaten by CRPF personnel, the FIR filed by police obscures many facts and makes no mention of the role of the CRPF in the violence,” the manch said.

Cases under the UAPA have been on the climb up in state too. “It is frustrating that the Jharkhand government is yet to check the blatant misuse of UAPA by police. Several daily-wage labourers and farmers of Lalpania (Bokaro) who have been vocal against exploitation of Adivasis and Moolvasis were booked as Maoists and under UAPA in the last few years. They are still struggling to get bail,” the statement said.

“In July 2020, adivasis were beaten up by a mob on suspicion of selling / consuming beef in Dumka 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,” the manch said.

During the last 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 too, the activists lamented.