Thousands of tribals staged a massive rally in Ranchi on Thursday against amendments proposed to two tenancy laws, disrupting normal life in the state capital as authorities were caught off guard at the unannounced storming.
The BJP government through the ordinances has sought to amend the Chottanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act to allow acquisition of tribal agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes in Jharkhand, drawing flak from opposition and social organisations.
Carrying banners and placards with slogans “Gaun Gaun Mein Naara Hai Jharkhand Humara Hai (every villager knows Jharkhand is ours)” and “Adivasion Ko Unka Haq Do (give tribals their due rights)”, tribals from villages marched in hordes into the city choking every entry point.
Ambulances, school buses, motorists, and even police vehicles were caught in a traffic jams that lasted for eight hours as the protesters, under the Adivasi Buddhijeevi Manch, gathered at Morhabadi ground in the heart of the city.
The police and the administration apparently had no information about such a huge gathering. Around 100 constables were put on duty to control traffic, but the huge strength of the protesters rendered them useless.
“We had deployed all the police constables available on Thursday at Morhabadi to control the traffic. The police can do less when nearly a lakh people are out on the streets,” said Ranchi traffic superintendent of police Sanjeev Kumar Singh.
The rally led to long traffic jams at Morhabadi, Kutchehri Road, Bariatu, parts of Lalpur and Circular Road, the busiest areas of the state capital.
Barring a few incidents of minor vandalism, the rally remained largely peaceful. Agitators reportedly damaged some vehicles on MG Road.
Premchand Murmu, member of Adivasi Buddhijeevi Manch said the rally was not political and had no backing from political parties.
“The indigenous people of Jharkhand have assembled here for their rights,” he said.
Karam Munda, a daily wage labourer from Khunti, said he did not know “what changes the government has made to the tenancy laws, but I know they will take away our land”.
He sacrificed his day’s earning of around Rs 200 and joined the rally along with his wife, three daughters and one son.
The state government had made unprecedented security arrangements for the May 14 state-wide band called by main opposition parties including the JMM and Congress over the domicile policy.
Several control rooms were set up in Ranchi and prohibitory orders were issued. All these measures were missing on Thursday.