It is too early to say that the rightwing BJP government in Jharkhand feels it has lost the war by the Governor’s returning the Land Tenancy Amendment Bill without her stamp on it following the tribal upsurge. Given the track record of the Sang Parivar-backed BJP dispensation, more hidden agenda may be in its closely guarded cellar. But, for the time being, its daredevil pole-vault appears to have boomeranged.
The government was cocksure that Draupadi Murmu, its handpicked lieutenant, would toe its line. But Draupadi chose to prove that her sentiments lay with the cause of her fellow tribals. The note that accompanied the returned Bill was: ‘How will it benefit the Adivasis?’
It was a loaded question. One does not need to be a tribal to understand its implications. In a few decades the 70% Adivasi population in Jharkhand got decimated to the current 26%. Researchers Arup Maharatna and Rasika Chikte point out in their paper published in Economic and Political weekly, Nov. 20, 2014, that ‘While tribal people constituted around 36 per cent of the total population of the region in the early 1950s, their share declined noticeably to around 27 per cent by the beginning of the 1990s (Demography of Tribal Population in Jharkhand 1951-1991, Maharatna & Chikte). According to Wikipedia, ‘The growth of the ST population has been 17.3 per cent which is lower by 6 percentage point if compared with the growth of the State’s total population (23.3 per cent) during 1991-2001.’ It all shows that the indigenous population has been at the receiving end of human and material development. Large scale influx of non-tribal population into the tribal area for employment and business, half-hearted implementation of the Tribal Sub-Plan, and the displacement of the tribals from their land contributed to such a situation.
In a recent article Jharkhand-based writer and researcher Stan Lourdusamy pointed out that 2.4 million acres of tribal land have been forcibly acquired with the consequent displacement of 1.7 million Adivasis. The pittance of compensation dished out to them meant nothing. No wonder, with the rightwing Jharkhand government’s ploy to grab more tribal land through tenancy amendment was made a damp squib by the agitating tribals whose wave of anger went sky-high.
Jharkhand cut off its umbilical cord from Bihar in 2000. It was the result of a long drawn struggle of the Jharkhandis who had argued justifiably that the Bihari cow was feeding on the Jharkhandi lawn and supplying its milk to the Gangetic plane. But, even after the bifurcation, the exploitation of Jharkhand by commercial sharks in connivance with the bureaucrat-politician nexus went unabated alongside the non-development of the state and the impoverishment of the population.
Today, the Jharkhandis are coming of age. They are in no mood to stomach the neglect of their state and the stonewalling of their progress. The tsunami-like wave of anger unleashed by them against the state government’s brazen pole-vaulting into ‘where angels fear to tread’ demonstrated that the Adivasis are capable of saying on your face that enough is enough. That they can and will strike back with vehemence against any more attempts to play with their lives!
The recent agitation reminded one and all of previous historical agitations like those of Sido-Kanhu and Birsa Munda and other martyrs. The people demonstrated amply well that the blood of the martyrs still flows in the people of the land. If the Hindu Rashtravadi government dares to take another provocative stride, indications are that the Jharkhandi tribals will strike back with more ferocity uprooting the BJP dispensation wholesale.(Published on 17th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 29)