JHARKHAND: Peoples Unity Forces Govt to Retreat from Amending CNT & SPT Acts

Gopi Kant Baksi

THE mineral rich state of Jharkhand ruled by the BJP led NDA government which is the worst ever since the formation of the state in the year 2000, is reeling in agony due to the anti-people policies of the government.

RSS is using the state as its laboratory for fanatic experiments.   Series of incidents of communal violence, frenzied rumours leading to lynching, sharply deteriorating law and order situation, forcible acquisition of farmers’ lands, attack on democratic rights, police high handedness, custodial deaths, suicides of peasants due to debt burden, are the features of the state led by Chief Minister Raghubar Das.

The government’s main aim is to acquire tribals’ lands by hook or crook and transfer it to corporate houses so that they could extract the rich reserves of minerals.

CNT AND SPT ACTS AMENDMENT BILL - 2016

These century-old acts provide protection to the tribal land, specially agricultural land which cannot be used for other purposes. These Acts, Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santal Pargana Tenancy Act are central acts and these cannot be amended/changed without the approval of the president of India.

Transfer of land of the tribals is forbidden under the law. Hence the government, by-passing the state assembly, had promulgated CNT/SPT Act Amendment Ordinance with proposals of changing the category of agricultural land to non-agricultural land and was sent to the president of India for approval. Many political parties, including Adivasi Adhikar Manch, different tribal social organisations met the president and urged him not to approve the amendment ordinance. The president, as is said, had advised the government to send the proposed amendment as bill, through the state assembly and the governor.

Then the state cabinet prepared the CNT/SPT Act Amendment Bill - 2016 and placed it in the winter session of the assembly, got it passed by voice vote within few minutes in November 2016 and sent it to the governor for the approval of the president.

Different political parties, including CPI(M) and other Left and  opposition parties, different tribal social organisations met the governor and urged her not to send the proposed amendment bill to the president for approval. The Governor responding to the people’s urge and also considering the constitutional values, has sent the bill back to the state government, with 192 memoranda submitted to her by different organisations, with some objections.

The schedule of ensuing monsoon session of the assembly from July 11-17 has been postponed.

The approval of the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) is mandatory before placing the bill for amendment in the assembly. TAC is the highest decision making body in the scheduled area. A meeting of the TAC was convened on June 3. The chief minister is the ex-officio chairman of the TAC. But there are strong protests against him holding the chairman's post as he is a non-tribal. In the TAC meeting, the issue of amendment bill was not discussed. Different members of the TAC are also under pressure from the tribal masses. They also have decided not to support the amendment bill. They have sought time of one month to study the bill and the proposals sent to the governor by different organisations. Accordingly, the next meeting of the TAC has been convened on August 3.

It is reported that Chief Minister Raghubar Das has said on July 3 after the TAC meeting that he had decided not to tweak sections of the two tenancy acts to enable wider use of agricultural land, on the demands of public opinion and indicated that the dates of the monsoon session of the assembly could be altered to table fresh amendments.

RISING COMMUNAL VIOLENCE & LYNCHINGS

Rumours flaring up communal tension and violence have become a regular phenomenon in Jharkhand. Lynching of people by vigilante groups and by frenzied mobs incited by communal outfits, have become the order of the day. During the month of May, the state had bitter experiences of lynching, resulting in murder of seven people over apprehensions of child abduction, which were unfounded.  The administration failed to take proper steps to control the situation.

ATTACK ON DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

There is a growing high handedness of the police against the democratic movement. At least three cases of custodial deaths have been recorded in the last few months. Seven people were shot dead by the police in 55 days – four persons in Barkagaon, two in Gola and one in Saiko village of Khunti district.

At Barkagaon in Hazaribag district, farmers and villagers were sitting on a dharna with a local woman legislator of the Congress party demanding proper compensation for their land acquired by the National Thermal Power Corporation, a central public sector unit. Police attacked the people staging dharna, at midnight and brutally lathi-charged them when they were asleep. When people protested, police fired indiscriminately killing four people.

In Gola block of Ramgarh district, two people were shot dead by police when farmers were peacefully waiting at the gate of a power plant, at the call of the management for discussion regarding compensation for land and rehabilitation of displaced villagers. The villagers including an elected women member of zila parishad were arrested and kept in jail for months together.

In Saiko village of Khunti district, police fired on tribals killing one and injuring three. The tribals were awaiting conveyance to go to the state capital Ranchi to participate in a mass meeting organised jointly by different tribal organisations to protest proposed amendment to the CNT and SPT Acts.

Sharply declining law and order situation throughout the state, including the capital city Ranchi, has become a part of day-to-day life of the society. Murder, abduction, human trafficking, gang rape are happening on a regular basis.

 

PEOPLE'S PROTEST

During the assembly session, while the said amendment bill was being adopted, all the opposition parties including the Left parties organised a massive peaceful demonstration; police resorted to use of water cannons, teargas shells and severe lathi charge injuring many protestors. Leaders of all the opposition and Left parties were arrested.

Three statewide bandh calls by Left and other opposition parties received unprecedented response from all sections of people. Hundreds of people, activists and leaders were arrested.

Delegations of CPI(M) independently and jointly with Left parties and in some cases with all opposition parties met the governor on different burning issues. A delegation from Adivasi Adhikar Manch of Jharkhand led by Brinda Karat, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member met the president.

A massive rally was organised by CPI(M) independently on April 8, 2017 at Ranchi which was addressed by Tripura chief minister and Polit Bureau member, Manik Sarkar and Brinda Karat in-charge of the state.

Protest programmes against the forcible acquisition of  land for M/s Adani in Godda district are being organised Brinda Karat has visited the area, met the affected people and addressed a mass-meeting at district head quarters.

The third all India conference of the Bhumi Adhikar Andolan held recently in Ranchi has decided to organise a demonstration in front of the assembly on July 12.

Though the government has temporarily retreated on the question of amending the land laws, it will certainly search for avenues to ensure transfer of land with rich minerals to the corporate houses and therefore the struggle against these attempts will go on.

 

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