RAGHUBAR DAS’S TRIBAL DIS­CON­NECT

An ‘in­se­cure’ CM avoids in­volv­ing tribal lead­ers to solve the Pathal­gadi is­sue

India Today - - STATES - By Amitabh Sri­vas­tava

On June 29, when four con­sta­bles showed up at the Saiko po­lice sta­tion in Khunti district, fol­low­ing three days of cap­tiv­ity, se­nior of­fi­cers had no ex­pla­na­tion why only three men were re­ported taken hostage by a tribal mob.

The con­sta­bles were ab­ducted by pro-self-rule pro­test­ers from the res­i­dence of BJP Lok Sabha MP Karia Munda af­ter clashes at the nearby Ghaghra

vil­lage, where the po­lice had launched a hunt for four trib­als ac­cused of in­volve­ment in the gan­grape of five so­cial ac­tivists on June 19.

The crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion gap is symp­to­matic of the way the state has ap­proached the ‘Pathal­gadi move­ment’ here. The an­cient Pathal­gadi cus­tom in­volved plac­ing mono­liths next to the graves of an­ces­tors. But since Au­gust 2017, tribal lead­ers in over 100 vil­lages in the Munda heart­land have taken to in­stalling stone slabs at vil­lage en­trances—these list out tribal rights and dou­ble up as bound­aries that the po­lice, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials and non-trib­als must not cross.

The Raghubar Das gov­ern­ment has failed to en­gage the Pathal­gadi lead­ers, who ar­gue that the tribal re­gion of Jhark­hand is an in­de­pen­dent ‘dishom’ (na­tion). The gan­grape was an ugly fall­out of the grow­ing mis­trust. Ac­cord­ing to the po­lice, the in­ci­dent also es­tab­lished a Maoist con­nec­tion to the move­ment. Be­fore be­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted, one of the women had used her phone to click a pho­to­graph of Baji Samad alias Takla, an area com­man­der of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Front of In­dia, a Maoist splin­ter group.

BJP in­sid­ers say that Das’s re­luc­tance to in­volve tribal lead­ers of even his own party is driven by inse­cu­rity. The BJP has one of the tallest Munda lead­ers in its ranks: Ar­jun Munda, a three-term chief min­is­ter. Of­fi­cials be­lieve he would have been best suited to in­ter­vene in Khunti. But Munda is seen as a pos­si­ble chal­lenger to Das, and the Jhark­hand gov­ern­ment is ap­par­ently un­will­ing to en­gage him to win over Khunti.

The state’s only en­gage­ment with the trib­als is through civil bu­reau­cracy and the po­lice. And it’s clearly not work­ing. Spe­cial drives, like the Adi­vasi Jan Ut­than Ab­hiyan, to ex­tend ben­e­fits of cen­trally spon­sored schemes through spe­cial camps have had lit­tle suc­cess. “To hope that gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, who nei­ther know the lo­cal lan­guage nor have any con­nect with the trib­als, will solve the is­sue is be­ing too op­ti­mistic,” says a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer.

SOM­NATH SEN

AT ARM’S LENGTH Raghubar Das (left) with Ar­jun Munda

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