A state-wide bandh called by the opposition in Jharkhand on Monday to protest police firings on villagers opposing land acquisitions for power plants and the state government’s move to amend two tenancy laws, evoked a mixed response.
The bandh had negligible impact in urban areas but rural areas virtually shut down. Transport to and from the state capital Ranchi remained crippled and private schools across the state were shut.
Opposition supporters took to the streets in the morning to enforce the day-long state-wide bandh. Despite tight security, protestors blocked several national highways and also tried to disturb the rail services in different parts of the state.
Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JMV-P) chief Babulal Marandi and former union minister Subodh Kant Sahay of the Congress were taken into preventive custody in Ranchi.
Police also detained more than 200 activists including former Congress legislator Banna Gupta were also detained by the police. They were reportedly trying to disturb the road and rail services and vandalize public properties in different districts. JMV-P supporters stopped the Rajdhani express at Dhanbad railway station for 15 minutes.
Reports of minor scuffles between police and opposition supporters have been reported from different parts of the state.
Inspector general of police (IGP) MS Bhatia, who is also the state police’s spokesperson, said the force was put on high-alert across the state to prevent any untoward incident and ensure security to all public and private properties.
The opposition had parties called the bandh after simmering discontent over the last few months snowballed into massive issue following the death of seven villagers in separate incidents of police firing on protestors against land acquisition in Khunti, Hazaribag and Ramgarh.
The opposition had been unhappy since May this year when the Raghubar Das-led NDA government proposed to amend the Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act, 1908 and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act, 1949 to pave the way for commercial use of tribal land. Opposition parties unanimously opposed any change in the laws even as villagers hit the streets.
State congress president Sukhdeo Bhagat said, “This is the fight against government’s arrogance and dictatorial attitude. The BJP government in state is trying to muffle the voice of poor tribals who wanted to protect their lands.”
JVM-P legislature party leader Pradip Yadav, said “All political parties and tribal organisations are participating in the bandh to protest against the government that is trying to grab the poor tribals’ land for industries.”
The bandh affected almost all districts including Ranchi, Dhanbad, Jamshedpur, Bokaro, Ramgarh, Hazaribag and Dumka. .
Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) working president Hemant Soren said his party has also supportted the protest programme as the “government is trying to suppress the voices of poor people through bullets.”
Earlier, Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce and Industries (Fjcci) had appealed to the parties to withdraw their programme as it would impact business ahead of Diwali. Opposition parties turned down the request and asked them to support their call or else they would not be liable for any damages.