New Delhi: A delegation of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, along with representatives of Adhivasi Adhikar Manch, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression and Khunti villages on Tuesday submitted a memorandum, demanding the presence of special independent observers for monitoring elections in the Khunti Lok Sabha constituency, to the Jharkhand chief electoral officer (CEO) L. Khiangte.
The wanted to discuss the need for special arrangements for the election in the Pathalgadi area and the attempts by the local administration and police in the state to dissuade people from discussing issues under the pretext of Model Code of Conduct. However, the team was not granted a meeting by Jharkhand‘s CEO despite being given an appointment. After waiting for over three hours, the delegation submitted the memorandum in his office and left without meeting him, according to Siraj Dutta of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha.
The memorandum highlights the presence of an atmosphere of fear and panic among the residents of Khunti constituency and repression by security forces in several villages of Khunti and nearby districts, which organise Pathalgadi, a traditional practice of Adivasi self-governance under the constitutional provisions of PESA and the fifth schedule. For this, the memorandum calls for the deployment of special independent observers to monitor elections in the Khunti Lok Sabha constituency to ensure free and fair voting.
Drawing attention to the practice of filing FIRs on arbitrary grounds of abetment, obstructing public servants, creating a public nuisance, criminal intimidation and sedition, the delegation demanded that there should not be any further arrests based on frivolous charges.
The delegation also called for an end to the repression by the security forces and administration to ensure that the residents of the villages who had been intimidated were allowed to freely exercise their franchise in the forthcoming election. It further demands the removal of police camps from schools to allay the sense of fear amongst people, thereby, making the atmosphere conducive to for fair elections.
The memorandum also expressed concern over the attempts by the local administration to dissuade people from discussing issues under the pretext of Model Code of Conduct, which is only to be applied to political parties and not citizens. It further criticises the routine practice of applying Section 144 to prevent people from discussing their issues in non-political gatherings during elections.
Recently, economist, Jean Dreze and two members of the Right to Food Campaign were detained in Jharkhand under Section 144 and the administration claimed that section 144, which prohibits the “unlawful assembly” of people, was imposed as soon as the Model Code of Conduct came into effect.
In light of this, the delegation requested the district administration to “not misinform people regarding Model Code of Conduct and not to use section 144 at all since there is already a security apparatus in place to check untoward incidents”.