Jharkhand: Situation Worsens In Khunti District, Even As 4 Policemen Are Rescued

The Logical Indian Crew Jharkhand

July 1st, 2018 / 10:33 PM

Image Courtesy | India Today

Four policemen who were abducted from former Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker and BJP Member of Parliament (MP) Karia Munda’s house last week, have been rescued, confirmed the police.

The security personnel were kidnapped by the supporters of ‘Pathalgadi’ on June 26th and were then rescued on June 29th from a forest in Diling Bara, noted the NDTV.

The police stated that a march by ‘Pathalgadi’ supporters barged into the house of the MP (who was not present at the time), and abducted the security officers, after-which a massive search operation involving more than 2,000 police and paramilitary forces began, The Tribune reported.

The names of the policemen are Vinod Kerketta, Sion Surin, Nargendra Singh and Subodh Kujur.

The police had announced a reward of Rs 50,000 to anyone giving away information regarding their whereabouts. Initially, it was thought that only three policemen were abducted. However, as per reports, it was confirmed later that four were abducted.

The Wire quoted Karia Munda, who reportedly blamed the BJP government, said, “After statehood, mostly BJP has ruled Jharkhand. The situation today is worse than before. The present situation has arisen because the government allowed an itch to become a wound (funsi ko foda banne diya).”

The overwhelming police presence in the district after the villagers performed ‘Pathalgadi’ has disturbed the daily lives of villagers. One of the villagers, interviewed by The Wire, said, “the government has filled many villages with security personnel. Today (on June 27), nearly 200 men, women and children of Ghaghra village have been picked up and kept in the police tent”. Also, one of the villagers died in the stampede caused by the police firing.

Earlier on June 22, five street play artists who had come to perform in a school in Kochan, were kidnapped at gunpoint and raped allegedly by ‘Pathalgadi’ supporters, told the police.

Moreover, the police have accused the ‘Pathalgadi’ leader, John Jisan, as the architect of the gangrape. Reportedly, Jisan held a meeting of tribals on June 24 and also spoke with media, and vehemently denied all the allegations. He has blamed the state the rape and deemed it as their conspiracy. Police have failed to arrest him so far.

What is ‘Pathalgadi’?

Started as a stone placing ritual at the burial site (so that the dead person can rest in peace within the earth), the movement initially garnered acceptance as former IAS officer B.D Sharma and former IPS officer and tribal leader Bandi Oraon started a practice of carving rules, and regulations of the Provisions of the Panchayat Act (PESA) passed in 1996, to generate awareness among the tribals.

The act lays down powers for the gram sabhas regarding local administration and granted self-rule as the areas were not covered by the 73rd constitutional amendment. However, the movement has been radical in the recent years.

For the last two years the locals started engraving stones with rules and regulations with one of the rules being, “Outsiders are not allowed into the village without the permission of the gram sabha.”

The supporters of the movement have also burnt voter and Aadhar cards terming them as anti-tribal. Additionally, it believed that they also believe the gram sabhas to be supreme and they wish to reclaim rights over “jal, jangal and zameen” (water, forest and land).

The trigger points

The unrest in the state began after amendments were made to the Land Acquisition Bill 2017, which removed the crucial step of social impact assessment for land acquisition. This instilled fear among the tribals, which was further escalated by the by the amendments to the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act (SPTA) and Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CTA), prohibiting the sale of tribal land to non-tribals, The Sunday Guardian informed.

Strong opposition subsequently resulted in the reconsideration of the bills. The Chief Minister Raghubar Das finally withdrew the bills in August 2017.

Opposition leader Sikhan Murmu was interviewed by The Sunday Guardian, who said,” I cannot say that one government or one Chief Minister is responsible for it. Before Raghubar Das, all the CMs were tribals. Moreover, all the parties got the opportunity to rule the state in the last 18 years. As for the Land Acquisition Bill, there is a fear among the tribals that their land will be given away to the corporates. Pathalgadi activists are using this fear against the government.”

Furthermore, he added, “Tribals have genuine concerns, but these cannot be solved through non-democratic means. Instead, efforts will have to be made to correct the wrongs, through constitutional ways. We are organising a rally in Chaibasa on 3 July to call upon all the tribal public representatives—MPs, MLAs, mukhias, Zila Parishad chiefs etc.—to unite, cutting across party lines, for the larger interest of the tribals. For example, out of 81 Assembly seats, 28 have tribal MLAs. They can bring about the required changes. We cannot wait for the next Assembly elections to come to power and then make the changes, as till that time our land will be gone.”

The Wire also interviewed various MLAs who lamented the force being used by the BJP government instead of dialogue. One of them Pradeep Yadav of the Jharkhand Morcha, said, “the government is engaging only with force. Dialogue has stopped. The chief minister has left the Pathalgadi issue in the hands of the police. They are messing things up further. The government should convene an all-party meeting and decide a fitting approach to deal with the problem.”


Also published on Medium.


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Written by : Anirudh Ganeshan

Edited by : Abhinav Joshi

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