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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightJharkhand: settling...

Jharkhand: settling scores with racism


JMM leader Hemant Soren


Despite the prime minister himself setting out to catch votes with drumbeats of blatant caste-communalism and racism,  voters have given a body blow to BJP in Jharkhand.  In the assembly elections,   the Congress-Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-RJD grand alliance won 47 out of the total 81 seats; the BJP lost its seats including that of the chief minister,  at a time when it was preparing for a major comeback with the backing of the Centre.   Although the adivasis - tribal community -  successors of the tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda, did not show any mercy to BJP,  inspite of appearing in the garb of saviours of Dalits under prime minister Modi.   The latest analysis is that the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAA) that was touted as intended for the protection of Dalits, only sharpened the setback suffered  by the party. 

Following the earlier losses of states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh,  and the failure to reach the tip of majority in Haryana despite tall claims there,  the BJP had a consternation in Maharashtra attempting one of the dirtiest underhand gambits seen by democratic India to grab power.   The party, that had to retreat in shame in that state,  could not afford to lose Jharkhand.  For that goal,  the BJP was showing up the reputation of Raghubar Das,  as the first chief minister to have completed a full five-year term ever since the state's formation in 2000.    But with the corruption stories of Raghubar Das being brought up by party's insiders themselves,  it had to go back to the trump card of prime minister Modi's 'charisma'.

But Modi,  who arrived for the campaign in a big way,  set aside the claims about development and took out all the cards of communalism,  pure and simple.  Of the five stages of polling in the state,  two were held after the passage of CAA by the parliament.  And by that time Modi, who resorted to purely racial hate speech under the cover of CAA, including an objectionable communal reference to the clothes of anti-CAA protesters,  had made sufficient disrepute by that mention.  On the other hand, the Opposition grand alliance,  laid bare the anti-people policies of the state government.   By raising issues showing BJP's atrocities on man and soil,  like stealing the land of tribals, the increase in unemployment,  the supression of the agitations by anganwadi employees and government servants through police overaction,   the campaign hit the target,  as proven now.  The Opposition by holding up as chief minister candidate the tribal Hemant Soren, who is intimately aware of the mind and soil of the land,  succeeded in crushing the image sought to be created through the intense campaign by Modi.  Overall,  the electorate,  who sidelined BJP which had embraced racism forsaking development,   backed the grand alliance that faced the people on the platform of their living issues.

The BJP's victory in the earlier term of the assembly, was in fact gifted to it  by the failure of the Congress,   Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and RJD,  failed in forming alliance with their mutual squabbles.  Even in a state that is reserved for tribals,  the chief minister projected by the BJP was a non-native from another state, Raghubar Das.   One who belonged to the OBC section, he was not only unable to stand by the tribals' rights,  his rule in a manner amounted to even stripping them of their rights.    Raghubar Das was keen and in a hurry to apportion the entire forest and mineral rich region to monopoly industrialists in the name of development.   The 1908 law, the Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act,  which bans the transfer of tribals' land to non-tribals,  and the Sanhal Parganas Tenancy Act were amended in 2016.   When protests raged against this,  during the middle of 2017  the amendment was dropped half way.

However, the state government kept trying,  with the support of the Centre, for new legislation to acquire land for public purposes and for enterprises in public-private partnership.   The tribals,  who were angered by this,  started putting up graffiti declaring autonomy in their region thus launching a movement of 'pathargadhi' in the streets in tribal areas showing the provisions regarding autonomy enshrined in the 5th Schedule of the Constitution.  When the government realised this 'pathalgarhi' would strengthen the movement,   it started swooping on them with laws against treason.  The forum for the movement was formed in Kundi, the most backward district in Jharkhand.  Nearly 12,000 people were arrested under charges of treason,  including 43 village chieftains.   The BJP government was not prepared to implement the provisions of the Forest Fights Act 2006,  which addresses the basic rights of the tribals.   Despite repeated instances of mob lynchings,  no action was taken against them.   In the district of West SinghBhum,  the situation got so bad that children started dying of starvation for want of ration - which was denied because their Aadhaar as not linked to the ration card.  Instead of ameliorating the situation,  what the Raghubar Das government tried to do was to end the special tribal identity of the population.

The jolt suffered by the BJP is nothing but a blow by the people at the very first opportunity they got against such anti-people acts.  The Jharkhand electorate was in a way hitting hard against the hypocrisy of Modi and the BJP who talked loud about protecting protecting Dalits in the election rally in Delhi the other day.    This setback suffered by the ambition of holding people along,  by spreading racial hatred and limiting development to mere rhetoric, comes at a time when the whole country is up in a popular agitation against the CAA.  And that is what makes the BJP's defeat more striking.

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