The BJP-led Jharkhand government arrested an Adivasi activist and drama professor on Saturday night for a 2017 Facebook post asserting the rights of Adivasis to eat beef. Jeetrai Hansda, who is an assistant professor at the Co-operative College in Jamshedpur had written in 2017 “tribals eat beef while performing last rites and during various festivals. Just because of a law banning cow slaughter, why should we stop our tradition of having beef and follow Hindu tradition.
He had stated that if the government thinks of Adivasis as citizens of the country, then laws favouring them also have to be made. He had post also said that they oppose India’s laws on eating beef and that his community also consumes peacocks, the country’s national bird. He also expressed his unwillingness to follow Hindu customs as his community wasn’t Hindu.
Hansda, who is a National School of drama graduate, was returning home from an award function on Saturday night, May 25, when the police picked him up. “He has always been vocal against the suppression of Adivasis in Jharkhand. He has been stating that they need to have a separate voice,” explained a student who didn’t want to be identified. He is currently in police custody and hasn’t been presented in front of the magistrate yet.
He was booked under sections 153 (A), 295A, 505 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for insulting religious feelings and attempts to promote enmity between groups of people. The case against him was filed a year later on June 11, 2018, and then the office in charge was directed to issue a non-bailable warrant against him.
Shortly after the complaint was filed by ABVP against Hansda, Dasmath Hansdah, the chief of Majhi Pargana Mahal, a body that works for the preservation of adivasi traditions wrote to the vice-chancellor of Kolhan University. The right-wing organisations had demanded that the college dismiss the professor.
Then Dasmath Hansdah had written in the letter to the vice-chancellor that all the points mentioned by Jeetrai were customs of the Adivasis. In the letter, he mentioned that being citizens of India, Adivasis too have the right to follow their practices.
Activists on the ground believe that the police waited for two years to arrest him as the election were around the corner and they did not want to alienate the adivasis. In the recent Lok Sabha election, BJP had won 12 of the 14 seats in Jharkhand.