Entry into Jharkhand Raises the Issue of Tribal Self-Rule

14 February 2012, Jamshedpur

The Jansatyagrah Samvad Yatra reached the state of Jharkhand from Orissa after traveling a distance of 24,000km and crossing 9 states. The tribal leaders gave a resounding welcome to the team of Jansatyagrah Samvad Yatra. A public meeting was organised at Jamshedpur by ‘Gram Ganrajya Sanghatan’. Addressing the public meeting Shri Kishore Chand Mardi of ‘Gram Ganrajya Sanghatan’ said that 15 districts of Jharkhand state fall in the purview of tribal salf-rule while the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act is operational in 11 districts and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act is operational in 6 districts. The objective of all these acts is to give the tribal communities control over land, water and forests while establishing their self-rule. Some of these laws came into existence after the historical tribal revolts against the British while the Panchayat Extension into Scheduled Areas Act came into being in the late 1990s with the objective of establishing decentralized and empowered gram panchayats. The core reason for all tribal revolts has been the centralized system of land ownership by the state. The tribal communities believe and have always held that the prevalent system of land settlement has ignored people’s rights over common property resources and views land as merely a resource that can be converted into private property for the benefit of few. Because of this reason in Jahrkhand state a new movement has started to establish the constitutionality of people oriented laws and their implementation. He added that in the Kolhan and Santhal Pargana region permissions were being

given for industry and mining despite continuous opposition from the Gram Sabhas. The laws that were framed by the British are also not viewed as having any constitutional mandate. Shri Hari Singh Bhumika said that they started their organization – ‘Gram Ganrajya Sanghatan’ – to re-establish the traditional and cultural rights of the tribal communities. He further added that in the Jadugoda region of Eastern Singhbhoom extensive mining was being done by the Uranium Corporation of India Limited. For this no permission was sought from the Gram Sabhas and many villages were displaced without any re-habilitation plan. Since 2005, he said, 111 MoUs have been signed by the state government with many corporations and under this more than 100,000 acres of land is being acquired. ‘Gram Ganrajya Sanghatan’ has organised ‘Bhumi Suraksha Vahini’ in order to help the villagers who are struggling to save their land. Phagu Soren of village Karandi said that the tribal society has been acknowledged by the Constitution as the first society of India therefore any act that takes away their land is unconstitutional. Shri Somesh Soren of ‘Gram Ganrajya Sanghatan’ said that the current system of electing the Gram Panchayats is not based on the PESA law therefore in the tribal areas even today the decisions taken by the traditional tribal panchayats are considered valid and respected by the people as such. The state government is working hand in hand with the corporations to put down all the movements for land rights while at the same time they have no inclination to implement the ‘Samta’ Judgment given by the Supreme Court favouring the rights and claims of the tribal communities.

Shri Arjun Samal of ‘Gram Ganrajya Sanghatan’ said that in the industrial zones the tribal people have not been given any jobs or livelihood options even after they were displaced for the creation of these zones. On the other hand false cases are filed against those who oppose the companies. He said that in Eastern Singhbhoom alone more than 25,000 tribal families have been displaced till date to make way for the industries and mines. In many areas struggle against this blatant injustice is being carried on in the leadership of traditional tribal panchayats. It was announced that ‘Gram Ganrajya Sanghatan’ would join the decisive Jansatyagrah beginning 2 October 2012.

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