Jharkhandi dreams & hopes remain frustrated

|| Stan Swamy || 


Self-rule as per Adivasi traditions
The dream: The people of Jharkhand realized how during the five decades of existence as part of Bihar they were let down by politicians and bureaucrats in the name of functioning democracy. The elected politicians could not care less about what happened to Jharkhandi people. The small number of Adivasi & Dalit politicians who got elected through the reservation-quota could hardly do any thing for their people and some among them even sold themselves off for money and power. The bureaucrats from top to bottom were mostly from Bihar and they had least sympathy for Jharkhandis in general and Adivasis & Dalits in particular. 


The traditional system of Adivasi self-governance was neatly ignored. So when Jharkhand became a separate state, the Adivasis in particular were cherishing the hope that the traditional system will be restored and our Mundas, Mankis, Padharajas, Parganaits will be kings again and they will restore the rule by consensus once again.

Disillusion: Alas that was not to be. A rightist hindutva party grabbed power, formed govt and brought in hosts of non-Jharkhandi officials & officers from within and without the state. Did not even set up panchayat rule for local self-governance for ten years. Now panchayat election has been held but funds have not been made available to the elected bodies. Of course no one speaks of the traditional self-rule of the Adivasi/Dalit communities.

Control over Jal, Jangal, Jameen 

Dream : when the new state dawned, the Jharkhandi people who had been deeply hurt by their unjust deprivation of the natural resources for so long, cherished a hope that they will again become the masters of the natural resources. By the year 2000 about 15 lakh people had been displaced and about 15 lakh acres of their land had been alienated from them. So the Jharkhandi people hoped that this exploitation would stop and that they will liv e and work in their home land. 

Disillusion : what happened in the new state during the last decade is a great betrayal. The four govts went on signing spree of MoUs with industrialists without even consulting the land owners. As many as 74 such MoUs have been signed which if implemented will alienate another lakh of acres of land. Fortunately, people are resisting it and have not allowed big companies to open shop in Jharkhand. This is a great achievement of Jharkhandi people. 

Share in wealth from mining 

Dream: Jharkhandi people had hoped that our land is rich in minerals and we will be its rightful owners. The central & state govts have claimed that whatever mineral is beneath the land it automatically belongs to the state and the Jharkhandi people were never in a position to question this claim. But now Jharkhand is a new state created to safeguard tribal interests, we hoped that our rights over minerals found in our land will be respected.

Disillusion : the reality is that the state continues to hold that it is the owner of all minerals and that the central & state govts will have a share in it in the form of royalty but land owners will have no share whatever. Thus our minerals are looted by national and multinational corporations leaving us further impoverished.

Acknowledgement of culture and languages

Dream: when the Indian parliament enacted the law granting statehood to Jharkhand, the home minister proclaimed that Jharkhand is being made a separate state so the Adivasi people can govern themselves as per their cultural traditions and customary laws. So the Jharkhandi people really thought that a new era will open where Adivasis culture, its languages, its traditions will be restored.
Disillusion : Sadly nothing of the sort has happened. Adivasi culture is considered a thing of the past and is bring replased by capitalist consumerist values and our languages have been sidelined by non-indigenous languages. At long last all major tribal languages have been given second language status but provisions for teaching them in schools are not there. On the other hand, the non-indigenous Hindi has become the first language which every body has to learn and the foreign English has become a coveted language for those who aspire to become professionals.

Meaningful employment of the youth
Dream : Jharkhandi people had hoped that the new state will open up manifold employment opportunities to our educated youth and that our rural people will find meaningful employment in various development / welfare schemes.

Disillusion : but nothing of the sort has happened. Most government bureaucrats (officials and officers) are non- indigenous outsiders and the whole recruitment process for top to bottom is ridden with corruption, nepotism and favoritism in favour of non- indigenous outsiders. The reservation-roster system is not followed. Our own young men and women are loitering about in search of some employment or other.

Restoration of Adivasi women’s dignity
Dream: in traditional Adivasi society our women, young and old, played their role in their family, village and broader society with dignity, respect, love. But it had been disturbed by globalization, industrialization which brought with them vast displacement in which women have been greater victims. So we had hoped that dispacement will stop and our people will continue to live in their ancestral villages and will be the queens of our homes.

Disillusion : Unfortunately what we are witnessing is the threat of increasing displacement from their land and homes. They find themselves in alien and often hostile situations in the midst of non-tribal settlements. Particularly vulnerable are our young women who have been forced to become house maids in far away towns and cities and become a prey to physical and sexual exploitation. Sadly no effective steps have been taken by central & state govts to protect these women.

Functional schools
Dream : the older indigenous generation, although most of them were not school-educated, hoped that all our children will study in schools where at primary level they will be taught through the medium of their mother tongue and that our own educated grown ups will teach their younger brothers and sisters.
Disillusion : but the non-tribal Hindi language has become the langua-franca in schools and broader society and tribal languages are being deliberately ignored. Sadly our own elders have lost attachment to their mother tongue and have succumbed to the alien majority language. Consequently tribal languages are dying.

Functional health facilities
Dream: it was common knowledge that Bihar Govt never bothered about providing health service to the indigenous adivasi people of Jharkhand. Our hope was Jharkhand state govt would make it one of its top priorities to provide meaningful facilities at village level. It was also our hope that the adivasi traditional medical knowledge and practice would be encouraged and strengthened.
Disillusion : tragically the heath system of the rural adivasi people has worsened and a preventable disease like malaria is taking a heavy toll of life every year. Jharkhand govt is more interested in privatizing health services and building super specialty structures for the rich. Less said the better as far as traditional medicine goes as it has been down played beyond recognition.

Outsiders be stopped from grabbing economic and social opportunities
Dream: beginning from Moghul period Jharkhand has been a green pasture for non tribals from neighbouring regions especially Bihar, Bengal, UP, Rajsthan. They came in large numbers in the form of petty businessmen, contractors, govt servants. They exploited the simple adivais, looted their land and became oppressors. After India’s independence the intruders from outside increased a hundred fold. So when Jharkhand became a separate state the hope was that this invasion from outside would stop and that Jharkhandi People can take their rightful place.
Disillusion : Alas the opposite has happened because under the shadow of BJP- led govts the surge of outsiders have flooded into Jharkhand reducing Adivasi population to a minority in their own homeland. The govt was forced to remove the encroachers in the major towns on orders from high court. Now bowing to the political pressure from non-indigenous sections, the state govt is speaking of rehabilitating them at govt expense. And ironically the same govt does not speak of rehabilitating the lakhs of indigenous land owners who were displaced during the 60 years since independence. A travesty of justice indeed.

Vth schedule, PESA act, Samata Judgment be implemented.
Dream: it was hoped that legislations and judicial decisions in favor of the adivasi people would be implemented in right earnest and the indigenous people will be assured of their developcment and well being.
Disillusion : These laws and judgments have been deliberately left unimplemented. Consequently Adivasi people continue to be displaced and their land continues to be alienated from them.  

Photo by: Mahadeo Sen

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