Why is the State hound­ing Daya­mani Barla?

The con­tin­ued im­pris­on­ment of the ac­tivist has not bro­ken her re­solve to op­pose dis­place­ment of trib­als, says

Tehelka - - KASHMIR - G VISHNU

ON 16 NOVEM­BER, tribal rights ac­tivist Daya­mani Barla would have spent a month inside Ranchi’s Birsa Munda Cen­tral Jail. Daya­mani had sur­ren­dered on 16 Oc­to­ber af­ter a war­rant was is­sued by the Chief Ju­di­cial Mag­is­trate, Ranchi, in a 2006 case re­lat­ing to a protest de­mand­ing MNREGS job cards for vil­lagers in An­gada block, Ranchi dis­trict. Though she got bail in this case on 19 Oc­to­ber, she was not re­leased as an­other case was slapped on her — for lead­ing vil­lagers of Na­gri, 15 km from Ranchi, to plough land that had been ac­quired by the state gov­ern­ment.

The charges against Daya­mani in­clude ob­struct­ing a pub­lic ser­vant, ri­ot­ing, crim­i­nal tres­pass and defama­tion. She also re­ceived a con­tempt notice from the Jhark­hand High Court for al­legedly par­tic­i­pat­ing in the burn­ing of an ef­figy of the court by a group led by Salkhan Murmu of Jhark­hand Dishom Party.

Daya­mani has been at the fore­front of sev­eral mass move­ments in the past 15 years, in­clud­ing the strug­gle against the Koel Karo dam project. She also led a suc­cess­ful protest against Arcelor­Mit­tal’s pro­posed steel plant in the Gumla-Khunti area. Her im­pris­on­ment came at a time when she was spear­head­ing the ag­i­ta­tion against set­ting up of cam­puses for the In­dian In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment, the In­dian In­sti­tute of In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy and the Na­tional Univer­sity of Study and Re­search in Law ( NUSRL), by dis­plac­ing hun­dreds of Adi­vasi fam­i­lies in Na­gri. “Clearly, the gov­ern­ment is try­ing to crush the protest by slap­ping false cases on the lead­ers. It hopes to de­mor­alise the pro­test­ers by keep­ing Daya- mani in prison,” says jour­nal­ist Faisal Anurag, a friend of Daya­mani.

Jhark­hand DGP GS Rath told TE­HELKA that Daya­mani had been evad­ing ar­rest for some time un­til sur­ren­der­ing. “The war­rant was is­sued for non-ap­pear­ance. It is a ju­di­cial mat­ter. The court de­nied her bail. She is the main ac­cused in the Na­gri case of 15 Au­gust 2012,” he said.

How­ever, Daya­mani seems un­daunted by all this. In a let­ter to Faisal from prison, she ex­pressed greater re­solve in the fight against dis­place­ment: “I have never de­ceived my home­land, never over­looked the ques­tions raised by the Jhark­hand peo­ple. The flow­ing wa­ter of the Koel, Karo and Chata rivers is a wit­ness to this. I learnt to write with my fin­gers in the mud and sand of this land. On the banks of the river Karo, while graz­ing my sheep, I learnt to bathe and swim. The shade of trees cov­ered with dew gave me love; how can I sell this? How can I not make into a part of my­self the suf­fer­ing of the so­ci­ety that taught me how to live?”

The jailed ac­tivist’s let­ter shows she doesn’t find her in­car­cer­a­tion re­ally shock­ing. She writes: “To pro­tect the in­ter­ests and rights of these peo­ple is our re­spon­si­bil­ity. And I think this is the only way for those who try to ful­fill this re­spon­si­bil­ity. Only dan­gers and troubles are writ­ten in their fate, this is the re­al­ity of life... We will not give even an inch of our an­ces­tral land. We hope this mo­ment will not be the end of our lives be­cause as long as the Koel, Karo and Chata continue to flow, we will fight this bat­tle.”

A di­a­betic with blood pres­sure prob­lems, Daya­mani’s plea to the jail au­thor­i­ties to pro­vide her with ap­pro­pri­ate food went un­heeded un­til CPM polit­buro mem­ber Brinda Karat in­ter­vened. “They weren’t even pro­vid­ing the right food. The Jhark­hand gov­ern­ment re­wards those who break the Fifth Sched­ule and dis­place Adi­va­sis, and im­pris­ons Adi­va­sis who fight for their rights,” Karat told TE­HELKA.

Daya­mani’s hus­band Nel­son Barla, who runs a tea shop, has lit­tle hope of her get­ting re­leased soon. “She is fight­ing a lonely bat­tle. In this case, both the gov­ern­ment and the ju­di­ciary seem to be in­ter­ested par­ties. For now, it ap­pears that she has been cor­nered,” he says. “But she is not some­one whose spirit breaks so eas­ily.”

• Un­daunted Daya­mani Barla is a rous­ing voice against dis­place­ment

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