New Delhi: In a meeting held on 7th and 8th December, concerned citizens got together at Gandhi Peace Foundation
and later at SADED premises to deliberate upon disturbing events currently happening in the state of Jharkhand. Three villagers died when police opened fire at a large ‘Jail Bharo’ procession or the second Hul (revolution), close to Dumka on December 6, while they were protesting against illegal arrest of fellow activists and for filing false cases against 320 others.
The protesting villagers have been charged with disturbing ‘official work’ after their traditional (and constitutional) ‘morhe manjhi’ meeting in Amgaachi and Pokharia villages was disrupted by PI James Toppo on April 17th earlier this year. Two arrests and false cases were made against 909 villagers for the first time. (Under 5th Schedule and PESA Act, no government official can intervene in traditional Adivasi meetings like these). This insensitive behaviour by state machinery had led to the first Hul and gherao when about 7000 villagers, with their families and livestock, marched to Dumka SP’s office to get arrested voluntarily, to uphold their constitutional right to collectivize and isolate identified land mafia in the month of August 2008.
Even then, the core issue seems to have become that of law and order when actually it was that of land-grab by local land mafia and by companies like CESE thermal power company- an industrial giant and a flagship company of RPG Enterprises, which requires 1000 acres of land to start a 1000 MW power plant with an investment of Rs 4000 crores. Though the District Collector has stated in local media that this violent incident of 6th December has nothing to do with either the power plant or the issue of displacement of villagers, the villagers, on the other hand, claim to have submitted a refusal-letter to him on August 23rd in full media glare, stating their refusal to notices by Land Acquisition Department.
Besides Kathikund SP, there are reports that state that Adivasi protestors injured one of their men, set their jeep afire and thus were dangerous ‘naxalites’, who even had ‘provocative’ literature with them so police firing was more an act of self-defense. This seems to have justified raids in homes of villagers, especially offices of powerful local movement groups- Ulgulan Manch and Hulgulan Mahila Manch. Deputy Chief Minister Stephen Marandi has expressed sorrow at villagers being ‘taken for a ride’ by selfish groups who are anti-development, while referring to opposition to the proposed thermal power plant.
We at South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy (SADED), condemn police firing and state repression of Adivasis of Jharkhand, who are fighting a legitimate battle for protecting their land, resources and their rights to collect against singular enemy, who sadly looks like is the police and the state, yet again.
We appeal to you to publish this story and expose the gross violation of human rights of Adivasis and local struggling groups of Jharkhand.
For more details and for registering your protest online, visit http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Support_Dumka_Hul_Online/
The President of India
The Prime Minister of India
The Chief Minister of Jharkhand-Shri Shibu Soren
Principal Secretary to Jharkhand CM
State Minister for Tribal Affairs-Dr. Rameshwar Oraon
We, the concerned citizens of this country, condemn police firing and state repression of Adivasis of Jharkhand, who are fighting a legitimate battle against setting up of a thermal power plant by CESE- an old industrial giant and a flagship company of RPG Enterprises.
Adivasi struggle to save their land and rights over resources began in April 2008 in Amgaachi-Pokharia villages (Kathikund Block, District Dumka, Jharkhand), when CESE came knocking village doors for 1000 acres of land to be able to generate 1000 MW in a thermal power project worth Rs 4000 crore investment.
In April 2008, the Land Acquisition Department gave a collective notice to all villagers of Amgaachi and Pokharia, but villagers refused to surrender their land to the state department. Again next month, individual notices were sent to villagers, which again, they refused. In a traditional and constitutionally legitimate Morhe-Manjhi meeting of Adivasis of Amgaachi on April 17th, after identifying 4-5 members of local land-mafia, it was collectively decided that there will be social boycott of those people and that no one will send their lands to them. Police came to such an Adivasi meeting, where no government official could enter as per 5th Schedule and PESA Act. Villagers reacted by making PI James Toppo calm down and explained their situation to him. The same PI later lied to media saying that he was taken hostage at the Adivasi meeting, made to sign a bond paper that he shouldn’t visit their village.
The situation spiraled into prompt FIRs being filed against 909 villagers on false charges under IPC sections 147, 148, 149, 353, 452, 188, 427, 504, 341, 342 and 3 of GPDP Act with a basic contention that these villagers were trying to stop official work. This was followed by two illegal arrests (Hopna Baski, husband of Gram Pradhan Fulu Marandi and Charan Kumar-State Convener of Ulgulan Manch) that led to protests 19th August onwards at various places- Madhupur, Ranchi, Dumka, Giridih, Dhanbad, Bokaro, West Singhbhum, Jamshedpur, Sahebganj and so on. Peaceful protests were in the form of dharnas, rallies and one gherao of Dumka police station from 21-25th August.
On 23rd August 2008, during this dharna, the refusal to give up their land was submitted to the District Collector in full media glare, who said he will forward their reply to concerned departments. Also, in what can be referred to as the first HUL (revolution/rebellion) and a ‘Jail Bharo Abhiyan’, more than 7000 people came to submit themselves, their wives, children and livestock to the Dumka SP, contending that if the 909 fellow villagers could be charged with false cases for holding a constitutionally approved Morhe-Manjhi Adivasi meeting, then even they wish to ‘plead responsible, guilty and so jailed for that’. As a result of mass upsurge triggered by false cases slapped against villagers and arrest of two leaders, the CJM bailed out Hopna and Charan, ending the five-day dharna on 25th August.
Trouble wasn’t over yet when the next day i.e. on 26th August 2008, FIRs were filed against 320 of the 7000 protestors based on similar lines. Leading movement activists like Munni Hansda, Amelia Hansda, Anne Tudu, Bhimlal Sahu, Banku, Sunita, Jonathan, Babulal, Raj Charan, Rajesh and others were amongst those targeted by police.
On 27th November 2008, Babulal was arrested, so was Charan Kumar, Hopna Baski and Munni Hansda for a fake motorcycle robbery from Kathikund police station
Villagers then decided to go on a ‘Janta Curfew’ (akin to Section 144 used by state), wherein, no government official can enter the village. Local movement group- the Hulgulan Manch- declared that a second HUL and ‘Jail Bharo Abhiyan’ will begin from 6 December 2008 in Dumka. Villagers collected at Shikaripada as police stepped up operations to seal Dumka borders and put in place officials for checking thoroughly every person who crossed over into Dumka.
On 6th December, 80 rounds were fired at protesting villagers, who were stopped at Haripurnakka, 3km before Kathikund police station, about 30 km from Dumka. Three died instantly, while fifteen got injured. Eyewitnesses say that police burnt their own jeep, ran away and later turned around to call unarmed and peacefully protesting villagers as ‘naxalites’ and ‘Maoists’, who even injured one policemen ‘in firing’. Bhimlal Sahu and Jonathan were arrested after this as they are alleged for 21-25 August dharna at Dumka S P Office. The police lied that provocative naxalite- literature was found with them. Currently, seven villagers are in Dumka jail, awaiting justice for them and thousands of fellow villagers.
Police is raiding homes and offices of all activists, including those of Ulgulan Manch and Hulgulan Mahila Manch. In a reaction to this event, Stephen Marandi (DEPUTY CHIEF MINISTER) said on 7th December that ‘Ulgulan Manch has nothing to do with displacement as well as Indegenocracy in Jharkhand. That the Ulgulan Manch is ‘fooling people’ and ‘taking them for a ride.’
We, the concerned citizens of this country and people who react to injustice against the so-called marginalised communities (assuming ourselves as center sometimes), unanimously support the Adivasi HUL against repressive state structures, against all those people and institutions that want to snatch away rights and resources of innocent people for either power or profit.
We demand an enquiry into the incident that led to death of three Adivasis on 6th December 2008 police firing. We demand the immediate release of those illegally arrested by police in Dumka. We demand the state to get pro-active and stand in favour of its own people rather than watching violation of their human rights, like a mute, apathetic spectator.
You can go online and register your protest at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Support_Dumka_Hul_Online/
Dr Vijay Kumar