People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 11, 2001
Growing Movement In Jharkhand
J S Majumdar
DEMANDING the immediate release of Etwa Oraon, a leading CPI(M) functionary amongst the tribals in village Chitarkots, demanding an end to police atrocities, and immediate restoral of tribal lands to the tribals, more than 1000 tribals, mostly youth, women and men, from twelve villages - Chitarkota, Barkatolli, Pali, Pandara, Kesare, Simlia, Barsa, Nayatoli, Damortoli, Guttutoli, Meral and Saparom, belonging to five panchayats, for more than four hours on January 23, geraoed Ratu police station, 15 km from Ranchi city, the capital of Jharkhand state.
A militant procession, originating from Chitarkota, was led by the Party's local committee member and tribal youth, Shahbir Lohra, and other Party members Suresh Munda, Pandw Oraon, Ranjit Kachhyap, Ranjit Modak. Carrying traditional arms, they reached and gheroaed Ratu police station, breaking the police cordon. To face the situation and the militant agitation of the tribals, the Babulal Marandi government sent a large contingent of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), to assist the Jharkhand police. But neither the armed police nor the Rapid Action Force could deter the determined agitators. The militant tribal women took the lead inside the police station.
It may be recalled that under the same police station, in village Daladali, three party members and tribal youths were killed by landlords and goondas, in connection with the land, struggle on August 14 last year. In the process the landlord was also killed.
Intensive land struggle has been going on for restoration of tribal lands in this area. In the illegally occupied land of the tribals by the landlords and land mafias in village Chitarkota the tribals harvested the paddy from the field in 16 acres of this land. The land mafias mobilised police and got Etwa Oraon arrested on the charge of forcibly harvesting paddy.
On December 18 last, more than 1200 villagers, mostly the tribals including large number of women, with traditional arms, resorted to rasta roko at Namkum in the periphery of Ranchi city blocking Ranchi - Jamshedpur highway for 7 hours. They were demanding restoration of tribal lands and against renewal of lease of tribal lands by Defence in the field firing range.
As was stated by CPI(M) repeatedly, the land issue is becoming one of the major political issue in Jharkhand in which restoration of tribal lands and displacements of people in large number of villages are emerging out as central political issue in Jharkahand.
Marwari Relief Society established hospital at Ranchi on Munda Khudkatti land, which is non-transferable tribal land under Chotanagpur Tenancy Act. (CNT Act).
In 1998, after Atal Behari Vajpayee government came into power at the centre and after the central government announced the formation of separate state Jharkahand. Marwari relief society leased out the entire premises to a RSS to a RSS outfit who in turn is subleasing the premises and buildings to various other outfits of RSS to establish their head quarters. CPI(M) and other opposition political parties demanded immediate restoration of this land to tribals and removal of these RSS outfits from this premises. The Land Revenue Minister of Babulal Marandi government publicly admitted that this was really a Munda Khudkatti non-tranferable land which was illegally occupied by Marwari Relief Society against NT Act. It is further illegal that a hospital premises had been leased out to RSS outfits to establish their head quarters.
As earlier apprehended by CPI(M) and expressed apprehension in the media; BJP led state government in Jharkhand are taking steps to amend land Acts to disposes the tribals from these lands. There is already a proposal, announced by the Land and Land Revenue Minister to amend Chotannagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and Santhalpargana Tenancy Act, 1948 (SPT Act). These two land Acts in Jharkhand, despite their loopholes, are intended to protect tribal lands. Even secret discussions are going on by the prime minister's office to amend 5th schedule of the Constitution under which Scheduled Areas Regulation, 1969 apply to many tribal areas including in Jhakrkahdn so that there can be easy occupation of tribal lands by the land sharks and the multinationals and national monopolists to exploit the forest resources above and mineral resources underground. There is already a move to bring out Ranchi and its surrounding areas from CNT Act and Scheduled Areas Regulation.
Two day's Jharkhand state organising committee meeting of the Party, held on January 12 and 13, prepared a charter or demands on political issues to place before the people as specific agenda in Jharkhand. These include immediate restoration of tribal lands to the tribals from illegal occupation of landlords and land mafias and other vested interests; not to dilute or exempt CNT, SPT Acts and Scheduled Areas Regulation; Replacement of 5th Schedule of the Constitution of India by 6th Schedule in 112 blocks in total 202 blocks in Jharkhand where 5th schedule and Scheduled Areas Regulation apply and establishment of elected Tribal Autonomous Council under 6th Schedule to protect the tribal land and other tribal interests; education in mother tongue including the tribal languages to begin with from primary education with establishment of schools and appointment of teachers; defence of central public sector units, which directly affects 60 per cent of 2.5 crore of people of Jharkhand and on whose economic activities the further economic development of Jharkhand depend; Rehabilation, compensation and jobs to the largest number of displaced persons in Jharkhand compared to any other state in India due to mining and developmental activities protection and advancement of distinct tribal cultures and maintainence of communal amity; immediate Panchayat and local self bodies election etc. The charter also include the class and mass issue of the peasantry, agricultural workers, working class, women, youths, students and other toiling sections.
With these agenda the state organising committee decided to go to the people in massive mass contact campaign through padayatras, village meeting and street corner meetings in cities and towns in the entire month of February, 2001. This campaign will be concluded in the first state level rally of the Party to be held at Ranchi on March 16, 2001.
CPI(M)'s stand in respect of Jharkhand is now being appreciated by sections of tribal who came in contacts with the Party and its mass organisations. This was reflected in a well attended seminar organised by a tribal voluntarily organisation JOHAR and SFI together on January 12. Women and girl students attended in large number. The communal question, affecting the people of Jharkhand and the tribals, came in sharp focus in the seminar. Sitaram Yechuri, PBM explained the RSS approach in naming the tribals as "Vanbashis" instead of Adivashis. According to RSS the Brahmanical concept of Hinduism and their believes are the real Adivashis in the country including in Jharkhand and the tribals are mere Vanabashis in their philosophy. Though under compulsion, to capture power, BJP accepted the nomenclature of the state as "Jharkahand", yet they have not discarded their own nomenclature "Vananchal". Sitaram Yechuri explained the historical background and theoratical foundation of RSS which are anit-democratic, communal, fascist and against the federalism and against Indian plurality.
In one of the significant developments in the struggle of Jharkhand, in recent items, highest number of coal workers in the country resorted to strike in response to the call of CITU despite opposition by all other central trade unions. The militancy and total participation of the coal workers in this strike, including from the areas where CITU unions are non-existent, including all workers who are members of other central trade unions, have had profound impact not only in the trade union movement in the state but also influencing the general democratic movement. On January 24, in response to all India call of CITU, workers brought out rallies and public meetings were arranged against price rise and against attacks on the trade union rights by the central government. The main speaker in Jamshedpur public meeting, was CITU's vice-president of the Jharkahand state committee Rajender Singh Munda at Sakchi; at Rirayalal Chowk at Ranchi CITU's State General Secretary Mihir Chowhury and district leader and a massive meeting at Lodhna at Dhanbad by Basudev Acharya MP and CITU's State President and All India Secretary S K Bakshi. State CITU also protested against conspiracy to improve president's rule by Trinamul-BJP combine in West Bengal. Left parties unitedly staged dharna at Dhanbad as per All India protest day against the threat of imposition of President's rule to tale electoral advantage. In a significant development, in the day long dharna and public meeting jointly by legislative parties of CPI, CPI(ML), JMM, Congress, RJD and others also on January 24, adopted strongly worded resolution condemning the attempts of Trinamul-BJP combine to impose President's rule in West Bengal. Similar protest meetings were arranged in other districts also by the Left.
The chief minister Babulal Marandi, who is still an MP from Dumka, will be contesting as ruling combines candidate at Ramgarh. This is the sitting sit of CPI and the seat fell vacant due to death of CPI MLA. His wife is contesting as a candidate of CPI whereas other opposition parties are trying to put up a formidable candidate to defeat the chief minister. The final picture will only emerge out after January 31.