Pathalgadi, Adani Project, Dams: Jharkhand Activists Remind Assembly of Promises to Keep

The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha urged chief minister Hemant Soren to remember that work is left to be done on various fronts.

New Delhi: Ahead of the Budget session of the Jharkhand assembly, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of people’s organisations and activists in the state, urged chief minister Hemant Soren on Monday to fulfil his poll promises and the demands of the people.

Addressing a press conference in the state capital Ranchi, members of the Mahasabha said, we want to flag some pressing issues and demands of the state with the expectation that the government will discuss them in the assembly session and get into action.”

The Budget session of the state assembly is set to begin from February 28.

According to the Mahasabha, the ruling alliance comprising Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Congress and Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) is yet to act on most of the issues promised by the parties in their election campaigns and the promises made in their manifestos.

The press conference was jointly addressed by Vivek of the Right to Food Campaign in Jharkhand, economist Jean Drèze, who is Visiting Professor at Ranchi University, Bharat Bhushan Choudhary of the Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Elina Horo of the Adivasi Women’s Network, Damodar Turi of the Visthpan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan and Pallavi Pratibha, an independent activist working in the state.

Speaking to The Wire, Siraj Dutta, a member of the Mahasabha said they organised the press conference to remind the ruling alliance that you have to fulfil the promises you made during the election campaign. “The government took a progressive decision to withdraw all cases related to Pathalgadi movement but that has not changed anything on the ground,” said Dutta.

He claimed that even after two months since the cases have been withdrawn, fear and uncertainty among the Adivasis of Pathalgadi villages continue as the police and local administration are yet to act on the decision.

Also read: After Gruesome Killings, Jharkhand’s Pathalgadi Movement Under Scrutiny Again

“In addition to this, the government is silent on the massive human rights violations that took place in Pathalgadi villages and the setting up of police camps in schools, repeatedly flagged by Mahasabha,” he added.

Last month, The Wire had reported that many schools in Khunti, which was the epicentre of the movement, have been taken over by the security forces to establish camps to keep a check on ‘extremist groups’. According to a letter written to the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) by two organisations, there are eight such schools in Khunti alone and one in West Singbhum.

The Mahasabha, in its appeal, noted that the silence of the government on two key demands that drove the Pathalgadi movement – the implementation of Fifth Schedule provisions and PESA – is also deafening. “Both JMM and Congress promised implementation of PESA in their manifestos. We demand that the government immediately repeal both of these and adhere to their manifesto promise,” read a statement released by the coalition.

It can be noted that both JMM and Congress in their manifestos promised that if they are voted to power, their government will not allow forceful acquisition of land. In addition, Congress had also promised the cancellation of projects such as Adani power plant project (Godda), Icha-Kharkayi dam (West Singhbhum) and Mandal dam (Palamu).

“But since coming to power, the government has been silent on these issues,” claimed Mahasabha members on Monday. “Thousands are languishing in jails as undertrials for years for opposing such projects or simply for being Adivasis and Dalits. While both JMM and Congress manifestos mention this issue, the government is yet to act on it,” they further added.

According to the Mahasabha, while the protection of natural resources and traditional governance system needs to be a top priority of the government, it also needs to check the rising communalism and mob violence in the state. “We hope the government will discuss and roll out a plan to prepare a law against mob lynching, as promised in the manifestos. The government should immediately implement the Supreme Court’s guidelines, to check lynching, in letter and spirit,” the coalition members urged in their statement.

Dutta told The Wire that we have been raising these issues with the government and its allies ever since Soren came to power but, so far, their response has not been very encouraging. Last month, a delegation of the Mahasabha members met the state finance minister and Jharkhand Congress state president Rameshwar Oraon to discuss key issues of the state such as Pathalgadi, land rights, mob lynching, hunger and malnutrition.

The Mahasabha is likely to meet the CM and some MLAs in the coming days. A state-level conference is also planned in April to discuss these issues.

The coalition has also written a letter to the CM and members of the state cabinet urging the government stop all NPR-related activities in the state. “The government should also pass a resolution against CAA and NRC in the assembly,” reads the letter.

Moreover, the Mahasabha and other people’s organisations will be organising a dharna at Raj Bhavan on March 5 to demand that the state government immediately rejects the National Population Register.