At the core of the Patthargarhi related violence that has claimed the lives of seven people in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district is a strange 14-point programme that the leaders of this anti-government movement are forcing villagers to adhere to. Non-compliance is being threatened with death.
Sources in the police and home department told News18 that the violence that broke out in the far-flung district on Sunday, in which two other missing people are also feared killed, is a result of the ‘punishment’ given to tribals who chose to not comply with these rules. Here are some of them in brief.
1. Return all government identifications, including Aadhaar and ration cards.
2. Boycott government-run schools.
3. Wear only dhoti and saree at all times.
4. Complete prohibition for adivasis.
5. Adivasis don’t have religious texts/Gods/holy books, so stay away from them.
Also included in this 14-point list which is being circulated in villages across Jharkhand and in villages of some other states as well, are statements like ‘Adivasis are the actual rulers of India’, that the laws of the land don’t apply to them, they live by their own codes etc.
“It was in November, while the campaign for the state elections was at its peak when these Patthargarhi leaders went from village to village marking the houses that were not complying with these rules. This caused some people to object. They had their reservations about these new ideas. If they were going to shun their Aadhaar cards and ration card where were they going to get their ration from? How would they get their children educated? Slowly a general resentment started building among the tribals who were not in favour of Patthargarhi,” said a senior official in the state’s home department.
Tribals in favour of this movement have meanwhile forced children to opt out of government-aided schools and have put them in schools they run on their own, which teach mostly xenophobic theories and a mishmash of elementary mathematics, science, Hindi and English.
A source in local police told News18 that all the accused connected with Sunday’s murders are still at large and roaming quite openly throughout villages threatening the villagers to adapt to the new rules.
Among the areas where such codes have already been put in practice by forces, sources told News18, are East and West Singhbhum, Khunti, Murhu, Adki, Tebo and Bandgaon.
Officials in the administration have been blaming the ‘hasty’ pardon that was granted by the state Chief Minister Hemant Soren to all the adivasis who were involved in the Patthargarhi movement and were charged under various sections of the IPC and CRPC.
Soren’s first act as CM – to pardon the booked tribals - was seen as his ‘gift’ to the tribals community which had thrown its entire weight behind the JMM leader.
“The brief from intelligence agencies to the Centre and state was clear – do not take such hasty decisions. Set up a board, investigate these crimes and let only those people go whose crimes are pardonable. When you take such decisions [of withdrawing cases against the guilty] it encourages people to take law into their hands. This is exactly what has happened and will continue to happen unless the CM takes some strong steps against it,” the officer added.
However sources within the government, which has ordered an SIT probe into the incident, say that pardon of the tribals and Sunday’s violence should not be connected with each other.
“I think we should wait for the SIT report to come out before criticising Hemant Soren for taking this decision…but having said that I would also say that this violence has surely been a setback to many more moves that we were planning in the same direction. Such progressive and bold steps, we may not be able to take…at least for the time being.”