Revoke Pathalgadi cases, say activists

Many Adivasis, including a few traditional heads, continue to be in jail in Jharkhand, they say .

Rights groups in Jharkhand urged the Hemant Soren government to withdraw criminal cases slapped against persons associated with the Pathalgadi movement.

The movement was started by the indigenous people in the tribal heartland for their right for self-government. Stone plaques carved with rules of governance were installed at the entrance of many villages. The entry of outsiders was restricted.

The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), a group of rights activists which organised a State-level seminar at Ranchi on Friday, alleged that people were suffering as then Raghubar Das government had indiscriminately registered criminal cases to suppress the movement.

The police had then filed several cases against 200 named accused and more than 10,000 unnamed people under various charges that include abetment, obstruction to public servants discharging their duty, creation of public nuisance, criminal intimidation and even sedition, the JJM activists say.

“Mr. Soren, right after taking oath on December 29, 2019, said he would withdraw all cases. The announcement was met with widespread appreciation and support. However, a year after the announcement, the cases are yet to be withdrawn and many Adivasis, including a few traditional heads, continue to be in jail,” said Siraj Dutta, a lead member of the JJM.

According to the JJM, response to a Right to Information plea says there were 30 FIRs, spread across Khunti (23), Saraikela-Kharsawan (5) and West Singhbhum (2) districts.

“The district committee, comprising the deputy commissioner, SP and public prosecutor, has recommended withdrawal of only about 60% of the cases [excluding the two cases related to Kochang gangrape],” said the JJM.

“In addition to this, the Khunti district committee has recommended removal of only Section 124A/120A/B from seven cases.”

Activists decried that despite the recommendations sent by the districts, the Home department simply said it was under process.

Activists said Mr. Soren had raised the issue of repressive policies of the earlier BJP-led attacks on Adivasis in his election campaign.

“The recommendation to withdraw just over half the cases and the delay in withdrawing them indicate that the political decision of the government is yet to fully translate into action on ground,” Aloka Kujur, another JJM member, lamented.

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