Just two months ahead of elections, the BJP-led Jharkhand government has imposed Sec. 144 to ban protests in the state capital. The government order states that protests by Opposition parties and civil society can cause ‘grave law and order violations’.
The order signed by the Sub-Divisional Officer Garima Singh states that various political parties and civil society organisations have been organising protests and dharnas for various demands. But, these protests have been organised near government offices, Chief Minister’s house, Legislative Assembly and governor’s house.
The order specifically adds that the protests could include lathis, teer-dhanush (bow and arrow), which is the Adivasi sign of resistance and this could lead to law and order issues.
Sec 144 has been imposed near the High Court, Governor’s house, CM’s house, Nepal House, Project House, DGP office, and within 750 mts of the Legislative Assembly. The order states that it would come into force from August 14.
This would mean that these areas more than five people will not be able to walk or stand together. Any kind of arms, rifles, revolvers and any kind of traditional weapons such as lathis and bow arrow are also banned.
“This is to undermine democracy. Any kind of protest or gathering of people are not allowed. No loudspeaker is allowed. Just before elections, even people are not allowed to discuss freely,” said a civil rights activist.
In Ranchi, there are two areas of protest - in front of Governor’s house (which is considered to be like the Jantar-Matar protest area in Delhi) and Birsa Chowk, which is close to the Legislative Assembly.
This order has come because in the last few days there have been several protests and rallies in front the Governor’s house against the Forest Rights (amendments) Bill.
“The government doesn’t want the Forest Rights (amendments) Bill highlighted. Section 144 is being misused by the administration. Now, the BJP government’s political intentions are clear. Even before the Model Code of Conduct is in place, the government wants to quell any gathering, which could educate people,” said the activist.