Raghubar Das Government's War on Anti-Land-Grab Agitators

IN two months, the police and CRPF in BJP-ruled Jharkhand have fired on protesting farmers and tribals no less than thrice.

In late August, Jharkhand police fired on anti-land-grab protestors who had assembled for a meeting with the management of the Inland Power Limited (IPL) at Gola in Ramgarh, Jharkhand, killing two persons, Dashrath Mahto and Premchand Nayak. 47 rounds were fired without warning at 300 protestors at Gola – proving that the force used was deliberately deadly and not merely aimed at controlling or dispersing a protesting crowd.

Then, on Otober 1, firing by police and paramilitary killed 4 people and severely injured 72 who were agitating against land grab by the NTPC at Badkagaon in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. The four killed include three young students Pawan Kumar (16), Abhishek Rai (18), Ranjan Ravidas (18) and a tailor Mohammad Mehtab Alam (29).

Then, on October 21, as adivasis gathered in huge numbers at Ranchi to protest proposed amendments to the CNT and SPT Acts (Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, 1949), police fired on them, killing one and injuring several. The ordinances proposed to allow diversion of urban and rural lands of ST/SCs and OBCs for commercial use by corporates, real estate brokers and so on. Shamefully, the CM Raghubar Das tried to use communalism to tarnish the protests against this brazen dilution of Jharkhandi people’s rights – he recently declared that protests against the ordinances amending CNT and SPT Acts were sponsored by Christians. And now, his Government has unleashed bullets against this agitation.

These firings are not random excesses by the police. They are part of a concerted plan by the Raghubar and Modi Governments to unleash intensified repression on people’s movements and dilute laws to appease corporations. The movement against land grab in Godda for an Adani power house is growing, as it the agitation against the amendments of the tenancy Acts, and the firings are intended to have a chilling effect on the movements.

At Badkagaon, the police and administration are blaming the villagers and claiming that the innocents killed were ‘outsiders.’ And the Modi Government itself has stepped in to defend the killing, with Union Minister Jayant Sinha, who is also the Hazaribagh MP, blaming the protesting villagers for ‘provoking’ the firing.

Outright police and CRPF terror was unleashed after the firing on the villages of Chipa Khurd, Dadhi Kala and Kanki Dadhi in Hazaribagh – villages that have been protesting land acquisition by NTPC for mining projects for the past decade.

Ever since Jharkhand was formed, its rulers have been committed to grabbing land to honour corporate MOUs as well as government projects – spilling the blood of Jharkhand’s villagers who resisted the land grab and asserted their rights over land, forests and water. Jharkhand’s first CM Babulal Marandi – then in the BJP and now founder of the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha – presided over the Tapkara police firing on adivasi protestors against land grab. The Congress-JMM Government also has fired on the anti-NTPC protestors at Hazaribagh itself in 2013, killing one person. The Hazaribagh agitation against NTPC faced another firing that injured several people in 2015.

Protests began when NTPC began acquiring 8,000 acres across 28 villages for mining in 2006, paying compensation of a mere Rs 2 lakh per acre. The compensation was increased to Rs 20 lakh an acre but that amount also is far below the standards set by the Land Acquisition Act 2013. Moreover, the consent of the village Gram Sabhas has not been obtained.

The land that the NTPC is seeking to turn into a coal block is some of the most fertile in Jharkhand. Land losers are mostly small farmers, who have been holding ‘coal satyagrahas’ in protest for the past two years, digging coal by hand and selling directly to traders, paying a royalty to the Gram Sabhas. In the past few months, the protesting farmers had been on a ‘kafan satyagraha’ (shroud satyagraha) blocking the mining being conducted on forcibly acquired land.

The recent Singur verdict of the Supreme Court, vindicating the protests against land grab, ought to serve as a warning to the Jharkhand Government and the Modi Government that are unleashing brutal repression on farmers in order to grab fertile agricultural land without the consent of farmers. Villagers stand to lose not only land but livelihood, and diversion of fertile agricultural land should be avoided because this endangers the food security of the country.

Bulldozing democratic processes of Gram Sabhas and grabbing land at gunpoint cannot be the model of ‘development’ in a democratic country. Union Minister Jayant Sinha has accused the protesting Badkagaon villagers of pursuing ‘vinash’ (destruction) instead of ‘vikas’ (development). In fact, it is his Government at the Centre and his party’s Government in Jharkhand which is unleashing destruction in the name of development. The war-mongering at the borders continues even as the Governments wage war against India’s own farmers.

CPI(ML) teams visited Badkagaon several times since the massacre and have exposed the facts. Agitations are ongoing, demanding justice and accountability from the State Government that is grabbing land from the poor at gunpoint.

In protest against the Badkagaon firing, the CPI(ML) held a protest march and burnt the CM’s effigy on 2 October in Ranchi. On October 3, protests were held in all districts in the State.

On 5 October, spirited protests were held at district headquarters all over the state demanding resignation of Raghubar Das and warning ‘Appeasement of Corporates and Betrayal of Jharkhandis Won’t Be Allowed!’ On 17 October, Left parties and Opposition parties held a Badkagaon March and Sankalp Sabha (Pledge Taking Public Meeting.)

Jharkhand Jan Sanskriti Manch (JSM) held a protest programme on 5 October at Albert Ekka Chowk asking ‘Whose blood was shed?’ and ‘Why are we getting corpses instead of the promised ‘good days’?’ 

Liberation Archive