Offence is the best strategy for Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren to foil the mischievous designs of the Narendra Modi government, the BJP and the powerful caucus of the Dikus, the non tribals, who have been desperate to grab the land of the adivasis on the plea of industrial development and their empowerment. Hemant has come to realise that prostrating before Narendra Modi would diminish not only his social stature but more significantly of his father, the Guru of Adivasis of Jharkhand, Shibu Soren.
The adivasis have a long and memorable struggles against the rulers, either it was the British or Indian power brokers. These two have virtually turned the tribals paupers. Though Jharkhand was created as the homeland of the adivasis, the Dikus(non tribals) continue to lord over them.
The Jharkhand Assembly, in a special session on Friday, approving two key bills — one that makes 1932 the cut-off year for defining locals and the other that raises reservation in vacant government posts and services to 77 per cent from 60 per cent—is a significant move of Chief Minister Hemant. While he had frustrated the move of the Modi government to implement CAA in Jharkhand, he has made the adivasis to rally behind him as his protectors and take up cudgels against any move to destabilise him. This is also a warning to the Modi government and his pet Enforcement Directorate not to humiliate him and implicate him in false and fabricated cases. The ED has already arrested at least three close aides of Hemant. There is a lingering apprehension that he too may be arrested any day in the mining case.
Towns in Jharkhand have sizeable population of Muslims. Till some years back the towns of Jharkhand used too witness bloody clashes between the tribal goons and Muslim musclemen. They used to have a major say in the political and economic affairs of the state. In recent times the equation has changed. The Muslims have come closer to Soren and his JMM. At the initiative of the state BJP the Modi government had planned to weaken the Muslim support. This could be done only by implementing the CAA.
Most of the Muslims have been living in Jharkhand for decades. Obviously they will benefit from the bill that was adopted by the Assembly on November 12. The Jharkhand Definition of Local Persons and for Extending the Consequential, Social, Cultural and Other Benefits to Such Local Persons Bill, 2022, grants locals “certain rights, benefits, and preferential treatment” over their land; in the local development of rivers, lakes, fisheries; in traditional and cultural and commercial enterprises; in access to agricultural loans; in maintenance and protection of land records; for social security; in employment; and trade and commerce. Those whose ancestors’ names are mentioned in the land survey papers of 1932 or earlier will be considered domicile of Jharkhand.
Those whose ancestors have been living in Jharkhand since 1932 but whose names are not on land records will be considered as domicile on approval from Gram Sabhas. There is no doubt that the 1932 cut-off for domicile will boost his popularity. If the BJP opposes the Local Resident of Jharkhand Bill, it runs the risk of being perceived as undermining the interests of the state’s indigenous people. This will help the students in obtaining residential certificates to gain admission to educational institutions and get government jobs.
The Soren government also increased reservations for members of the Other Backward Classes from 14% to 27%. With the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party trying to mount pressure on Soren’s three-party coalition government, this decision is being seen by political analysts as an attempt by the chief minister to boost the popularity of his Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and put his rivals in on the backfoot.
In 2002, when Jharkhand’s first chief minister, Babulal Marandi of the BJP, had tried to pass the domicile policy with 1932 as the cut-off year, clashes broke out between indigenous people and others, claiming the lives of six people. The policy proved to be expensive for Marandi. He lost his chair.
BJP is now focusing on tribal votes and they will not want to go against the decision taken by the Soren government. The BJP leaders know it well that they cannot aspire to get elected only on the strength of the non tribals.
Soren’s move has also provided security cover to his government. Only recent the BJP had tried to implement “operation lotus” and force him to quit. But tye design failed. Now the BJP and Modi government have changed their strategy. They are now using the government machinery. Modi government has been ruthlessly using the Election Commission to unseat him. The BJP has been pressing for him to resign as the EC had sent a letter to the governor recommending that Soren be disqualifies an MLA. The recommendation was based on a complaint by the BJP, alleging that Soren had allotted a mining lease to himself. Soren holds the mining portfolio in Jharkhand
Soren has been resorting to all political tactics to foil the moves of Modi government. His moving a confidence vote on September 5, which he eventually won was part of his tactics to frustrate Modi’s move.
BJP sources reveal that some senior BJP leaders have sought the permission of their top leaders, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, to move the court against the land bill. They hold that the government should have done a complete study of this proposal instead of showing such haste. According to them the bill would not stand judicial scrutiny. However it is widely felt the bill will not only have impact on jobs but also on the social and cultural lives of the state’s people. It will also strengthen tribal-indigenous people’s financial security.
Gram sabhas which were turned redundant during the BJP government will be in the changed situation empowered to take a call in case a person was landless or his name was not recorded in the 1932 land survey, based on the culture, local customs and tradition, among others. This insertion is seen as a means to target forest-dwelling tribals, most of whom do not have their names in any land records.
It is worth mentioning that bills were passed amid the Enforcement Directorate’s summons to Hemant in the illegal mining case. Soren had alleged that he was being targeted out of political compulsions by the BJP and the Modi government. Nevertheless the future of the Jharkhand politics depends on the actions which ED contemplates to take on November 17 interrogation of Hemant. If the ED persists to harass Soren and arrest him, there is little doubt the state will witness a serious upsurge against Modi government. (IPA Service)