Satyagrah in Jharkhand for sovereignty in schedule areas
Tribal outfits activating villagers to boycott government welfare schemes, reject pensions, prevent entry of police, civil admin in villagesranchi Updated: Jun 25, 2017 11:53 IST
Guided by a newly floated organization, Adivasi Mahasabha, tribals in select villages of Jharkhand’s Khunti district have launched a unique satyagrah (non-cooperation movement) against the state government. They are demanding complete sovereignty in schedule areas—where tribal population is more than 50 %--guaranteed to them in the Constitution.
They are rejecting welfare schemes, urging police and civil administration not to interfere in their community matters, settling disputes in the gram sabhas, asking tribal MLAs and MPs to resign, instructing community brethren to quit government jobs and asking those who have retired to refuse pension.
The movement, though confined to few villages in the state with 26 % tribals, is fast spreading across districts posing a serious problem for the BJP governmen, which they have branded ‘anti-tribal’.
The Mahasabha argues that the Constitution guarantees tribal’s complete right on land, forest, water and other natural resources in their areas. They are free to use these resources at their will and the government agencies have no right to check, or control them. They disapprove of any role of police and civil administration in tribal areas.
The tribals, Mahasabha leaders say, are not bound to follow the policies or legislations framed by the elected governments, and any effort to force them to follow government diktat, would be violation of their constitutional rights.
Recently, HT had reported how the Mahasabha was encouraging villagers to install stone plaques at the entrance of their villages debarring entry of outsiders (read non-tribals), a step the government said was impeding welfare and development work in villages, besides straining peaceful coexistence of tribals and non-tribals across the state.
“There is nothing unconstitutional in our actions,” said Mahasabha leader Belosa Babita Kachhap, a woman who is spearheading the entire campaign along with few other male leaders. “Our traditional gram sabhas are way above the state and Central governments, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The constitution has lent it legislative, executive and judicial powers. We are only making the villagers aware of their rights.”
But not all tribals are on board with the Mahasabha’s non-cooperation movement. As HT travelled to some of these villages accompanied by a tribal journalist—non-tribal journalists too fear the risk of being attacked for trespassing—several tribals said the movement is highly confusing and void of logic.
“We need toilets in our homes but they are forcing us not to accept any grant from the government. Where do I arrange the money to build toilets,” said Vijay Hansda, a farmer from Chandidih village who supplements his income working as daily waged labourer.
Jeetu Gope of Bhandra said the Mahasabha leaders have asked villagers not to take ration from PDS shops, decline houses under Indira Awas Yojna and not to participate in any government surveys. “Its monsoon time and several mud houses are crumbling. I wish the Mahasabha has a plan for the poor families who live in leaking huts. Unfortunately they do not care for the sufferings,” he said.
Mangru Hansda, a 63-year-old retired army man from the same village is yet to understand why he is being coerced to stop availing his pension. “I am old and self dependent. How will I survive without pension?” he wondered, stressing, whenever he questions them, they fail to come up with any valid argument.
Mahsabha supporters Bali Munda and Mogo Munda were unrelenting though. “Once we succeed in establishing self rule in our villages, we will turn rich overnight,” said Mogo,.
Khunti deputy commissioner Manish Ranjan said he is meeting villagers and clearing confusing notions being spread by the Mahasabha.
Deputy inspector general of police A V Homkar said they have a plan to prevent confrontation and resolve issues through discussions and dialogue.