The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to have paid the price of experimenting with a non-tribal as Chief Minister of Jharkhand where tribals have a sizeable population.
Jharkhand was created in November 2000 for the welfare of the people of this region, particularly tribal people who constitute around 27 per cent of the total population. Respecting the sentiments of the tribal population, the BJP made Babulal Marandi the first Chief Minister who belonged to the tribal community. Marandi was later replaced by another tribal Arjun Munda.
The BJP after getting a majority in alliance with the AJSU in 2014 elevated Raghubar Das as the first non-tribal Chief Minister. Raghubar Das hit on the sentiments of the tribals by bringing amendments in two land acts – Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) and Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT) in 2016. The amendments were passed in the Assembly without discussion amid uproar by the opposition parties.
Several memorandums were submitted to the Governor not to sign the amendments.
The amendments proposed to acquire land for development projects. Both Acts were formulated to protect the land of the tribal people of the state. Jharkhand witnessed large scale protests over the issue. Raghubar Das took all steps to suppress the movement. The protesters were denied buses to reach the protest venues and the police was instructed to stop the protesters from entering Ranchi.
The entire opposition, particularly the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), protested inside and outside the Assembly against the amendments.
During the Assembly poll campaign, the JMM, Congress and RJD alliance Chief Minister candidate Hemant Soren promised to protect Jal, Jungle and Jameen. Even former Congress president Rahul Gandhi promised to protect the three Js.
The Congress and the JMM promise seems to have had an impact among the tribal people who worship nature and are emotionally attached to their culture, traditions and forests. There are a total of nine tribes in the state. Hemant Soren himself is tribal.
The tribes of the state have for long been demanding the Sarna code, which will provide them a separate code for traditional tribal religion that worships nature so that their culture could be protected and their population could be kept intact. The JMM has promised to protect the land, culture and traditions of the tribals but whether it will bring the Sarna code is to be seen.
Hemant Soren’s father JMM president Shibu Soren had once fought for the rights of the tribal people in the Santhal Pargana region against the money lenders. Shibu Soren once used to be a terror among the outsiders and moneylenders. He went to jail several times for fighting for the cause of tribals. After the victory, Hemant Soren dedicated the victory to his father. (IANS)