The state of Jharkhand came into being on November 15, 2000, the birth anniversary of Birsa Munda, leader of the anti-colonial adivasi resistance movement. The basic premise of the movement for a state of Jharkhand, separate from Bihar, was the right of Jharkhandis, especially the adivasis, to their own rich resources – land, forests, minerals, water.
It was the adivasi resistance – Ulgulan - led by Birsa Munda between 1897-1900 that, although eventually crushed, had forced the British colonial rulers to enact the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act in 1908, to protect adivasi rights over their own lands. The Santhal Hul of 1855 led by the legendary adivasi warriors Sidho-Kanho, had likewise forced the British to enact the Bihar Tenancy Act, later amended and renamed the Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act in 1949. The CNT and SPT Acts, then, represent in many ways the very spirit of Jharkhand.
16 years after Jharkhand’s formation, the BJP Government led by Raghubar Das is launching an all-out attack on Jharkhand’s spirit and the rights of its indigenous adivasi peoples. Overruling all democratic opposition on the streets and in the Assembly, the BJP-led alliance has on 23 November used its majority in the Assembly to amend the CNT-SPT Acts to allow diversion of urban and rural lands of ST/SCs and OBCs for commercial use by corporates and real estate brokers.
In recent months, the BJP-led Government of Jharkhand has also presided over a series of incidents of police firing on peasants and adivasis defending their land from forced acquisition, and on a series of communal and casteist atrocities by saffron outfits and custodial killings by police.
So the struggle is now to defend the spirit and existence of Jharkhand – and ouster the Raghubar Das Government is essential for that. The CPI(ML) in Jharkhand has been conducting sustained protests to uphold the rights of adivasis, Muslims, Dalits and ordinary citizens.
The Jharkhand bandh on 24 October called by CPI(ML) and other left parties in the state received state-wide support. The bandh was called to oppose the spate of incidents of firing on tribal protesters in Khunti, firing on displaced people in Barkagaon and killing of two workers of Inland Power Plant in police firing in Gola, incidents of communal and anti-adivasi violence by saffron outfits and Jharkhand police as well as denial of rights to para-teachers and other contract workers in government sectors.
While the Raghubar government’s state machinery was determined to foil the bandh call by heavy deployment of forces and open threats to the people, the common people in all parts of the state came on the streets against state government’s policies. CPI(ML) senior leaders including State Secretary Janardan Prasad, ex-MLA Vinod Singh, Subhendu Sen and Bhuvaneshwar Kevat were arrested after a heavy crackdown on marching bandh supporters in state capital Ranchi. Many leaders and activists were injured during the scuffle when police arrested hundreds of them and sent for a day to the Mohrabadi grounds which was turned into a makeshift jail. Arrests were also made in other places in the state including Giridih and Bokaro. There were bandh initiatives in every corner of the state.
Left parties including CPI(ML), CPM, CPI, MCC and SUCI held processions jointly in almost all places. Jharkhand’s non-left opposition including Congress, JDU, RJD, JVM etc. barring JMM, also came for the bandh same day with a separate call. The All India Kisan Mahasabha also held a countrywide Protest Day on 24 October against the police firings on peasants protesting land grab in Jharkhand.
A 22 year old Muslim youth Minhaj Ansari died after being brutally beaten by police in Narayanpur block in Jamtada district. On 17 October, a fact-finding team comprising of members from AIPF, UMF, Right to Food Campaign, Anjuman Islamia, Yuva Ulgulan Manch and ACPR visited Minhaj Ansari’s home and talked to his family members and villagers. The following facts emerged during the fact finding:
On 3 October evening, the station incharge of Narayanpur station along with other police personnel took away Minhaj Ansari, Fahim and Shabaan from Minhaj’s shop. It was claimed that Minhaj had posted a controversial photograph/image in a WhatsApp group. The three young men were beaten while they were being taken away. Several villagers reported that on the night Minhaj was arrested, the police made him run and then beat him mercilessly. They could hear the cries of Minhaj and the others for help. The police also threatened those standing outside witnessing this cruelty that they too would be shot if they did not go away.
Minhaj’s relatives reported that when they saw Minhaj’s dead body, the bones of his neck, hand and feet were found to be broken. The post mortem report had mentioned excessive bleeding. Shahban and Fahim who had been arrested along with Minhaj said that Minhaj had anticipated that the police would kill him. Shahban said that while initially they were beaten together, later Minhaj was taken to a separate room to be beaten. They could hear his cries from the other room. On the night of 3 October when the police sub inspector went to Minhaj’s home to collect his laptop and sim card, they let him talk to his sister on phone, when he told her that the police will kill him and they must give the police whatever the police is asking for. Besides laptop and Sim, they also took 3000 rupees cash. They abused his sister calling her a whore and threatened top jail his relatives if they protested.
Minhaj’s family never saw him alive again after he was picked by police. Even when he was produced before the SP, he could hardly move and he was unconscious. On 6 October he was sent to RIMS hospital where his parents saw him but there was no movement in his body. It was on 9 October that he was officially declared dead.
The team found out that Minhaj had been killed in police custody in which the station sub-inspector Harish Pathak, RSS members and the RSS ‘cow protection’ groups have a direct role in Minhaj’s death. Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Jaamtada district secretary Sonu Singh had complained against Minhaj and when Minhaj’s uncle went to the police station, Sonu Singh was present there beating Minhaj and giving directions to Harish Pathak to beat him. Minhaj’s family has registered a case of murder against Sonu Singh.
The fact finding team has demanded that Sonu Singh and Harish Pathak be arrested and all false cases slapped on relations and family of Minhaj be taken back. His family should also be paid compensation. There should be impartial judicial investigation into the entire incident. During the release of the report the team also condemned the Raghubar Das government for oppressing democratic voices and unleashing police oppression and terror in the state.
The CPI (ML) took out a Vidhan Sabha march from the Ranchi railway station on 21 November 2016 led by the Party’s Jharkhand State Committee and raising slogans of “Raghubar Hatao Jharkhand Bachao” (Oust Raghubar, Save Jharkhand). The march, led by State Secretary Janardan Prasad, CCW member Shubhendu Sen, Mohan Datta, Bhuvaneshwar Kewat and other leaders, went through the main roads of the city and culminated in a meeting at Birsa Chowk. The march was in the context of the Barkagaon and Khunti firings, against which there have been a series of protests.
Earlier, on 22 October thousands of adivasis took out a huge rally at Khunti under the aegis of 40 people’s organizations against the Jharkhand government’s wrong domicile policy and amendments in the CNT-SPT Act. During the rally there was brutal police repression and one adivasi was killed.
The CPI (ML) organized a campaign from 1 November to 15 November with the slogan “Oust Raghubar, Save Jharkhand”. The campaign culminated in a mass meeting at Barkagaon on 15 November and the Vidhan Sabha march on 21 November.
Despite it being harvest time, 3000 to 3,500 people from the following districts participated in the march—Ranchi, Giridih, Ramgarh, Hazaribagh, Bokaro, Dhanbad, Dumka, Koderma, Devghar, Godda, Jamatad, Gumla, Lohardaga, Garhwa, Palamu, Latehar, Pakud, and Sahebganj.
Prior to the Vidhan Sabha march a mass contact padyatra and village sabhas were organized from 1 November to 15 November which culminated in programmes at various district HQs. In Giridih district groups of 100 to 150 activists from each block—Bagodar, Sariya, Birni, Rajdhanwar, Gawan, Tisri, Jamua, Devri, Bengabad, Gandey, and Giridih—did a padyatra of 10 km daily (from 12 November onwards) and met about 15,000 people. A 400 strong motorcycle group joined the rally at Barkagaon on 15 November. A campaign and people’s hearing was conducted on the issues of corruption in NREGA and Rs 1.19 lakh bribe taken by the Birni BDO and JE, after which an FIR was filed. Meetings were held in several villages all over the state.
During the Vidhan Sabha march the meeting at the barricades was addressed by Party MLA Rajkumar Yadav, former MLA Vinod Singh, Parmeshwar Mahto, Usman Ansari, Sushma Mehta, Jayanti Choudhury, Rameshwar Oraon, Bhuvaneshwar Kewat and leaders from people’s organizations. The meeting was conducted by Com. Nadeem Khan.