Civil Rights Group Claims Parties Ignoring People's Issues in Jharkhand Polls

The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha has said that 'this election is crucial for protecting democracy and constitutional values in the state'.

New Delhi: A civil rights group has accused political parties in Jharkhand of putting people’s issues on the backburner for the ongoing assembly elections in the state. The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha has also accused most political outfits, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, of remaining silent on the real demands of the people.

The Mahasabha – a coalition of activists and people’s organisations – had released a charter of people’s demands before the Lok Sabha which also covered the ongoing assembly elections. Through this charter, the opposition parties were urged to “show firm commitment” to people’s issues and demands.

‘Assembly election crucial for protecting democracy’

For the assembly polls, the coalition also compared the manifestos released by the main political parties contesting the elections. It accused the ruling BJP of ignoring the real issues and said its “manifesto reflects the party’s arrogance and continuing denial of severe violations of people’s rights over the last five years. It is silent on most of the demands of people.”

The Mahasabha reminded the parties and the voters that “this election is crucial for protecting democracy and constitutional values in the state”. The Mahasabha said this was because the “last five years saw constant attacks on people’s rights and basic tenets of democracy – attempts to amend local tenancy laws, amendment in the Land Acquisition Act, setting up of land bank, starvation deaths, lynching, atrocities on Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims and women, state-sponsored communalism, attacks on the freedom of expression and subversion on traditional self-governance systems of Adivasis.”

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‘Implementation of NRC exposes BJP’s communal ideology’

The Mahasabha also charged that the inclusion of the implementation of National Register of Citizens by the BJP in its manifesto exposed its “communal and anti-poor ideology”.

As for the other parties, the Mahasabha said the manifesto of the All Jharkhand Student’s Union also ignored most of the demands but had a few notable exceptions – primarily in its push for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, a law against mob lynching and reservation for backwards castes.

Other parties also silent on main demands

It said the manifestos of the Congress and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) also did not include several demands that were based on the violations of people’s rights in the last five years of BJP rule.

As for Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) and CPI(ML), the group said they reflected most of the demands of the people. However, the group said the CPI(ML) did not release a detailed manifesto for the assembly elections as it did for the Lok Sabha polls.

The Mahasabha also pointed out that despite strong opposition from the masses against the formation of a land bank on “gair majrua” land, none of the parties had shown a commitment to repeal the policy. On the other hand, it hailed the declaration of the Congress to “cancel projects such as the Adani power plant and Mandal and Icha Kharkayi dams”.

As for the JMM, the civil rights group said the party was only talking about “reviewing” such projects while the JVM had maintained a staunch silence on their future.

Key demand of Adivasis ignored

The Mahasabha said that a key demand of Adivasis has been the implementation of the Fifth Schedule provision which deals with the administration and control of Scheduled Areas as well as of Scheduled Tribes residing in states others than Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. The group has said that barring the JVM, none of the other parties have shown any commitment to this demand.

Also read: Jharkhand: Rights Body Urges Govt to Withdraw Cases Against Thousands of Tribals

Regarding the demand for formulating a new domicile policy in favour of local residents, the Mahasabha said on this issue too the opposition parties have been offering “vague commitments”.

‘Separating mob lynching from slaughter law a sign of majoritarianism’

The Mahasabha also questioned the manner in which the issues of mob lynching and bovine slaughter law had been treated by various parties. “A welcome move by all opposition parties is the promise to formulate a law against mob lynching. But none of them commits to repealing the draconian bovine slaughter prohibition law that was in fact used to victimise some of the surviving victims of lynching incidents under the watch of the BJP government. It indicates the growing discourse of religious majoritarianism at the cost of values of secularism and equality, in opposition politics too,” it said.

In this regard, the civil rights group also took a dig at the silence of the opposition parties on the demand to repeal the Freedom of Religion Act, formulated in 2015.

‘Opposition silence on denial of welfare schemes too’

The group also attacked the opposition for not speaking out against the denial of entitlements to the poor. It said “despite the claims of ‘vikas’ (development) by the BJP, the state saw at least 23 starvation deaths in the last five years. Even opposition parties have not adequately addressed the issues of hunger, undernutrition and denial of welfare entitlements. Only the Congress has promised to increase the monthly PDS grain entitlement to 35 kg per family and to include pulses in that.”

Also Read: Jharkhand Citizens: People’s Rights Under Attack; Want New Government to Uphold Them

The group, however, lamented that none of the parties promised to increase the coverage of the PDS or social security pensions. “Even though Jharkhand has among the highest levels of undernutrition in the country, no political party has talked about increasing the number of eggs in the meals given to children in schools or Anganwadis,” it said and added that “Aadhaar has created havoc in welfare programmes in the state” but none of the parties spoke about delinking it.

The Mahasabha said the last five years had seen “staggering violations of political and civil rights” and yet most parties remained “largely non-committal on redressing them”. In this regard, it also referred to the repression and human rights violations in Pathalgadi villages.

“Thousands of people, primarily Adivasis, have been accused of sedition as ‘unknowns’ in several FIRs. None of the parties has committed firmly to closure of sedition charges, removal of police camps and taking responsible security personnel to task,” the group said.

Overall, it noted that it was “worrying that in this election season, political parties are more interested in securing defections of candidates from other parties, than finding solutions for addressing people’s demands.