PUCL Bulletin, January 2004

Jharkhand Adivasi and Moolvasi on a warpath

-- By Stan Swamy

A typical reaction from the non-Jharkhandi urban, middle class about the militant activism of the Adivasi/ Moolvasi Parties, Organisations and Movements during the past year, is one of disapproval and anger. The feeling expressed is that there was such, ‘peace and harmony’ in Jharkhand all these years and ever since Jharkhand State was born in November 2000 we felt we are all Jharkhandis. But suddenly violence has flared up, peaceful atmosphere has vanished, people are divided into ‘Jharkhandis’ and ‘non-Jharkhandis’, and a lot of people are made to feel that they are ‘outsiders’.
One may sympathise with feelings like these. But the fact is there was no real peace in Jharkhand. If any thing existed, it was the “silence of the graveyard”.

The adivasi and moolvasi people of Jharkhand have over the past five decades of independence been reduced to a situation of helplessness and silence. Independent estimates say that about 15 lakh acres of adivasi land has been alienated from them during 1950–1990 for setting up industries, mines, large dams, animals sanctuaries, highways. The name of the game was “national development”. The compensation paid, was meagre, arbitrarily fixed by the bureaucracy. Another 8 lakh acres have been fraudulently and illegally snatched from them by unscrupulous outsiders. Land alienation resulted in large-scale displacement; 36 lakh adivasis have been displaced, and only one-third of them have been rehabilitated. This process paved the way for outward-migration of adivasis to Assam, north Bengal etc.

During this same period, around 40 lakh persons mostly from Bihar and partly from Uttar Pradesh have come and settled down in Jharkhand. They gradually controlled the economy of Jharkhand and have become the exploiters of the adivasi/moolvasi people.

They could do all this because they were protected by the political leaders and government bureaucrats who were mostly from north-Bihar and did not have any sympathy towards the adivasi/moolvasi people. There is indeed a government language policy to the effect that all the officers posted in the Districts, and as such coming into direct dealings with people, should be able to speak the local language. There are arrangements, at least on paper, to conduct periodic exams in the different local languages. This is a policy that has never been implemented. An extreme example is the appointment of women from Bihar as health-workers (AMMs) to serve the health needs of the adivasi/moolvasi women in villages. These women neither speak the local language nor have any concern for the well being of Jharkhandi women. So is the appointment of hundreds of teachers in rural primary schools in Jharkhand.

These teachers cannot communicate with the children in their mother tongue, and they do not bother as to whether the tribal children really learn. These are just some instances of deliberate injustice perpetrated against the Jharkhandi Adivasi-moolvasi people all these years. The truth is the majority of the bureaucrats hail from Bihar and they do not hide the contempt they have for the adivasi and moolvasi of Jharkhand. Fairness, justice, human sensitivities are mental categories unknown to them. Thus Hindi, which is the language of Bihar, has been made the lingua franca of Jharkhand to the detriment of Jharkhandi tribal languages.

Every body knows corruption prevails from top to bottom in Jharkhand. It would be interesting to ask oneself as to who brought this culture of corruption into Jharkhand. Whereas the Jharkhandi adivasi/moolvasi have been the ultimate victims of corruption, those outsiders who seem very concerned about peace and harmony now have been the main beneficiaries of corruption.

The crude exploitation by the banias & sahukars of the simple adivasi and especially of the adivasi women in the village-bazaars is to be condemned. Sights of the cheap henchmen of the banias snatching the chicken from the adivasi women and throwing at them paltry sums of money are heart-rending to say the least.

It is the Jharkhandi adivasis and moolvasi who struggled for a separate Jharkhand state over the last 50 years. Many are the martyrs who have laid down their life for the cause. During all this time the non-Jharkhandis not only did not participate in the struggle but were also opposed to the struggle. And when Jharkhand did become a separate State on 15 November 2000, many were the hopes and aspirations the Jharkhandi people cherished for their economic, social and cultural development and well being. But all that have been dashed to the ground.

The Jharkhandi Adivasi/Moolvasi People have been pushed against the wall. They can go no further. They have suffered in silence for too long waiting for fairness and justice. The Domicile and Reservation issue, protests against attempts by BJP-led government to amend the Chhotanagpur and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Acts, sinister efforts by the illegally constituted JPSC to appoint outsiders as primary school teachers despite the accepted policy of the mother tongue of the children to be the medium of the instruction the government-sponsored Hindutva Parivar’s action to hinduise the Adivasi, the deliberate reluctance of the bureaucracy to restore the illegally alienated adivasi land, to force panchayat elections in the Scheduled Areas regardless of the Parliamentary Act against it are some of main reasons that provoke the Jharkhandi Adivasi/Moolvasi People to declare war on the State Govt. It has brought together the Adivasi, Moolvasi, Dalit people of Jharkhand.

Unfortunately the Jharkhandi people cannot look up to the Jharkhandi political Parties to provide the inspiration and leadership because the priority of Parties is to win elections and gain power. They would rather need to look into the currently emerging Jharkhandi people’s movements and people’s organisations that are led by young committed women and men. They will need to plan and formulate their long-term goals and short-term strategies. It is urgent that the struggle of the Jharkhandi people should reach the villages and not remain restricted only to towns and cities.

In planning their programmes of action, the activists should neither be distracted by the government’s policies and laws nor by the judgments the judiciary keeps passing. Rather, the base of their organised action should be the assertion of their human and traditional rights and the means of achieving them should be by the organised people’s power


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