The gram sabha of Ghaghra village in Khunti district of Jharkhand has written to Chief Minister Hemant Soren to stop the implementation of National Population Register in the state along with a resolution against Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens.
Ghaghra was one of the first villages in Jharkhand to erect stone slabs inscribed with the Constitution’s guarantees for tribal populations also known as ‘Pathalgadi’.
In the letter to the CM, the members of the Gram Sabha have stated that NRC would be created on the basis of the current NPR and in Jharkhand, the NRC would wreak havoc in the lives of Adivasis. While the CAA is evidently biased against the Muslims, when combined with the NRC, it would become lethal against Muslims and Adivasis as both the groups of people would be marked as second class citizens, states the letter.
The letter states that there are four important reasons of how NRC would affect the lives of Adivasis and Moolvasis. First, to prove one’s citizenship, people will have to run from pillar to post to find any existing documents and this would lead to a loss of time and money. “People can’t go looking for their certificates when they have to put food on the table,” explained Ramji Munda, a member of the Ghaghra Gram Sabha.
Secondly, if the government were going to implement the NRC in which land documents are required to prove citizenship and later if the government acquired their land, then they would be in a fix to prove their citizenship.
Thirdly, this process would enable or give a chance to government officials conducting the survey to exploit Adivasis. This would affect the social fabric of the state where many people irrespective of their religious preferences stay together in villages. Lastly, the government should focus on implementing the Fifth Schedule and PESA instead of spending resources on such programmes.
The Constitution has given special administrative powers to tribal areas under Panchayat (Extension of Scheduled Area) Act, popularly known as PESA. In 1996, when PESA law was enacted, many tribal villages erected stone slabs quoting provisions of the law that allowed self-rule through gram sabhas.
“In most of our villages, people do not have birth certificates, so how are we going to produce them now. In our Adivasi villages, we know all of our neighbours, but how will we be able to prove to the government that we are residents if we don’t have documents. We have never had any documents. The land we live on is ours and it falls under the fifth schedule,” added Munda.
Pointing to the difficulties which the women of his village will face, Munda said that there are several women who came from neighbouring villages after marriage. “How will they prove their residency. They never had documents either in their own village or here. The NPR and NRC will cause immense displacement and pain to Adivasis, in addition to targeting Muslims, Christians and Dalits in the villages,” said Munda.
This letter, which has been signed by all the members of the gram sabha and the village head is the first of such a letter which has been written to the chief minister. Earlier, when the Gram Sabha had implemented Pathalgadi, former BJP-led government had sent forces to repress the movement.