It was well past midnight but nearly 15,000 people still waited eagerly in biting cold in Dumka for the annual address of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Sibu Soren on party’s foundation day.
The rally was planned for Tuesday but by the time Soren descended on the dais to address the people, it was wee hours of Wednesday.
Dumka falls in the Santhal Pargana division which is predominantly a JMM bastion.
Soren appealed to the gathering, majority of them tribals, to get their children educated to improve their social and economic status.
“Lack of education in our society is a prime weakness. You must send your children to schools. You must make your sons and daughters educated. Without education you cannot make your family strong,” Soren said.
The literacy rate among Jharkhand tribals is a dismal 40.7% as per Census 2011. The state’s literacy rate is 66.41%.
A political rally at midnight may not be a common phenomenon in the country, but Soren has been addressing such rallies since 37 years. For his followers, ‘Guruji’s’ rally doesn’t need fancy hoardings and sumptuous dinner. Only bonfires were set up at fixed distances at the venue to beat the chill.
“We come here to see our leader. It does not matter if there is proper arrangement for food and night stay,” said Kalicharan Tudu of Rampur village.
Santhal Pargana is one of the backward parts of this tribal-dominated state and the people here still fight for basic facilities such as roads, electricity, drinking water, food and housing.
Soren’s son and former chief minister Hemant Soren also addressed the rally and said the party received strength from
“We have been organising the rally for the last 37 years here. Guruji (Sibu Soren) had formed JMM in the Santhal Parganas to fight against the social evils. Out agitational goal is still incomplete,” Hemant said.
Soren started his life as a tribal rights leader and spearheaded Jharkhand movement which eventually resulted in the state’s formation. Hemant lambasted the Raghubar Das government for abandoning social welfare schemes launched during his regime.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party government has stopped the Sona-Sobran Dhoti Sari Yojana we had launched for poor people’s benefit,” he alleged.
Leaders like Rajmahal MP Vijay Hansda and party MLAs Stephen Marandi, Nalin Soren, Sita Soren, Anil Murmu, former speaker Shashsank Shekhar Bhokta, former MLA Lobin Hembrum, party general secretary Binod Pandey also addressed the rally.