Ex-IAS officer held for supporting movement to declare Chhattisgarh villages ‘autonomous republics’
Police in Chhattisgarh’s Jashpur have arrested eight people, including a retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, for supporting the Pathalgadi movement under which several villages in the district were declared as “autonomous republics” by tribals, officials said on Wednesday.
“We have arrested eight persons including the former IAS officer Herman Kindo and the situation in the district is totally under control,” Jashpur superintendent of police Prashant Singh said.
Singh added that Joseph Tigga, a former ONGC employee who was the torchbearer of the movement along with Kindo in six panchayats of Jashpur, has also been arrested.
The arrests were made under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for alleged misrepresentation of the Constitution and inciting villagers.
Tribals put huge stone plaques, known locally as Pathalgadi, outside their villages claiming autonomy under the fifth schedule of the Constitution, which gives them the right for self-governance, stating that no outsider will be allowed entry and all development activities will be decided and done by them.
In Chhattisgarh, the first incident was reported this week and both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress united in claiming that the local tribals have been misled by outsiders.
Tribals of a few villages in Jashpur held a meeting on April 22 and decided to declare their autonomy. The villagers put a stone plaque outside their villages declaring autonomy under the Panchayats (Extension of Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996. The law provides for self-governance in the schedule (tribal dominated) areas of the country.
Local police officers said the villagers banned the entry of outsiders, including administrative officers, rejected law of the land and banned the sale and purchase of land by a villager to outsiders.
They said a clash broke out on April 28 between two groups over Pathalgadi in a Butunga village, after which security personnel were rushed in. The force was initially denied entry by the locals but they later moved in and on basis of the complaint by some locals made the arrests.
Chhattisgarh home minister Ramsewak Paikra said declaring autonomy “was a conspiracy by some retired officials, which is undemocratic.”
The Congress, which has constituted a committee to meet the tribals, agreed with Paikra that locals were being misled but added that the BJP had failed to work for the tribals.
“It is also true that the reason behind such movement is an apathy of the state government towards the tribals,” TS Singhdeo, Congress leader and leader of opposition in the state assembly, said.
“Pathalgadi is a symbolic protest against the government for not following the Constitution in many parts of Chhattisgarh and allowing corporates to take over tribal land,” tribal rights activist and president of Chhattisgarh Bachaao Andolan, Alok Shukla, said.
Chhattisgarh is the third state to witness the tribal movement after Jharkhand, where it started about six months ago, and Rajasthan, where locals declared several villages as autonomous in Udaipur district.
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