GAGGED AGAIN!

Tehelka - - 20 - MGNREGS FIR, SSP FIR FIR FIRS

who was ar­rested ear­lier last week ( State Ploy to Si­lence a Dis­sent­ing Voice?, 27 Oc­to­ber), was re­ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the same case by the Jhark­hand Po­lice min­utes aer she was granted a ju­di­cial bail by a lo­cal court on 19 Oc­to­ber. Barla’s ar­rest proves how a dis­sent­ing voice is shown lit­tle re­gard by the sys­tem, and how a state meant for trib­als is safe­guard­ing the in­ter­ests of all, but trib­als.

The po­lice was act­ing on a sep­a­rate filed against Barla in 2006 in con­nec­tion with the case that saw her ar­rest last week. Both the were filed aer she led a protest out­side a Block De­vel­op­ment Of­fi­cer’s of­fice in Ranchi, de­mand­ing fair dis­tri­bu­tion of

job cards. In­ter­est­ingly, while the first men­tioned her name, the sec­ond on the ba­sis of which she was re­ar­rested, does not men­tion it; she was in­cluded un­der the ‘Oth­ers’ list.

In Jan­uary, po­lice ques­tioned Barla for al­leged Maoist links aer she at­tended a con­fer­ence in Ranchi where Bi­nayak Sen and Tel­ugu poet Var­avara Rao had de­manded the re­lease of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist Jiten Marandi. Barla’s col­leagues term the lat­est ar­rest as “a shame­less act” by the state au­thor­i­ties. Ranchi Saket Ku­mar Singh re­fused to com­ment on the mat­ter, say­ing: “Write what­ever you want to. What dif­fer­ence will it make any­way?”

Barla has been at the fore­front of land rights ag­i­ta­tion in Jhark­hand and one of the prin­ci­pal voices against State­spon­sored atroc­i­ties against trib­als. It is largely thanks to her ef­forts that steel com­pa­nies such as Arcelor­Mit­tal were forced to stop ac­quir­ing large swathes of tribal forest­land in Jhark­hand. Since land in Jhark­hand is pro­tected un­der the Chotanag­pur Ten­ancy Act, 1908 and as most ar­eas in the state come un­der the Fih Sched­ule of the Con­sti­tu­tion, farm­land can­not be used for in­dus­trial pur­poses. But the gov­ern­ment has been giv­ing out farm­land for in­dus­trial and ur­ban­i­sa­tion projects. Barla has cease­lessly stood up against these projects, con­stantly draw­ing the gov­ern­ment’s ire.

At TE­HELKA’s THiNK fest last year, Barla had drawn at­ten­tion to the plight of the farm­ers and trib­als in Jhark­hand. Ironic that within a year of her rous­ing speech that was greeted with a stand­ing ova­tion, this cru­sader finds her­self all alone in her fight against the State’s ex­cesses.

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