Jharkhand: Rights group accuses state govt of downplaying repression of Adivasis through misinformation
Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha says the recent statements of state CM Raghubar Das and Jharkhand police gloss over the issue of mass sedition against thousands of Adivasis
Civil Rights group Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha has accused state BJP government of spreading misinformation to downplay the alleged repression of thousands of Adivasis in Pathalgadi villages, who have been facing sedition charges for a long time. The group said that the recent statements by the state Chief Minister Raghubar Das and the police conveniently gloss over the issue of mass sedition against Adivasis.
On November 19, the news portal Scroll.in reported that the police had filed sedition cases against more than 10,000 unknown people in Khunti district in 2017 and 2018 when Adivasi villages erected stone monoliths with engravings of the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution related to the special autonomy granted to tribals.
On November 21, Jharkhand police called the media reports “totally incorrect” and “hugely inflated”. CM Raghubar Das also called the report “wrong” and said that the government took “stern action against those indulging in anti-national activities”.
Mahasabha conducted a fact-finding inquiry in August 2019. The team was able to access 15 FIRs and had found that the police had charged about 150 named persons and at least 10000 unnamed people under several charges including sedition.
Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha claimed that in its own statement, the police said that 172 persons have been accused with sections 121A/124A of IPC (commits offence related to waging war against state/sedition).
It stated that in at least three FIRs covering several villages, the group has analysed, rather than mentioning the number of accused ‘unknowns’, they (police) mentioned “other unknown men and women of the village involved in unconstitutional activity”.
“So, it could effectively mean all residents of the villages thereby making the total number of “unknown” accused significantly more than 10000. The statement of the police is silent on why thousands of ‘unknown’ villagers, mostly Adivasis, continue to be accused of sedition, for more than a year, if the police did not find any evidence against them,” it questioned.
Over the police’s claim that it is not pressing for the prosecution of the sedition charges against any villager not accused in the case, the group asked, “In that case, why is the police not filing closure report against all the unnamed accused?”
The team had found that the state responded to Pathalgadi with “severe repression and violence” wherein Adivasis in some villages were severely beaten, houses were raided and ransacked.
It mentioned in the report: “In Ghaghra village, a pregnant woman, Ashrita Munda, delivered a physically disabled baby, a couple of weeks after being beaten by the police during a raid. People of Ghaghra also claim that the police fired at them on June 26, 2018, in which two persons were shot and one of them, Birsa Munda, died at the spot. The police has also forcefully set up camps in schools and community buildings without the consent of Gram Sabhas in many Adivasi villages.”
The group stated that due to this violence, there is immense fear amongst people. “The villagers get scared whenever the police visit their village because any of them could be considered as one of the ‘unknown others’ in the FIRs and accuse of sedition.”
The group said that it submitted the fact-finding report to the district administration, police department and the Chief Secretary but no attempts have been made by them to address the issues and concerns yet.
Resenting the opposition's slumber, Mahasabha has pointed out Khunti has a BJP MLA since 20 years and a BJP MP since 35 years but both have been silent on the violations of people’s rights and police atrocities.
Mahasabha reiterated its year-long demands that closure reports of all FIRs that accuse thousands of unnamed residents with sedition be immediately filed. It also demanded a judicial inquiry into the “human rights violations by security forces in Ghaghra and other villages and ensure punitive action against responsible personnel”. Besides a compensation should be provided to victims of police atrocities in the region. “The government should initiate a genuine dialogue with the representatives of the Pathalgadi villages, Adivasi organisations and experts on the interpretation of Constitutional provisions written on the pathals,” it said.