In November last year, an advertisement appeared on the front page for several days in the Hindi newspapers of Jharkhand. The advertisement was given by Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghuvar Das. The advertisement was that Patthalgadi is a conspiracy to be anti-constitutional and to keep the poor always poor.
Let it be clear here that Pathalgadi is part of the tradition of Munda Adivasi community of Jharkhand and they have been following this tradition for centuries. Earlier they used to do two types of Pathalgadi – Sasandiri and Seemandiri.
Under Sasandiri or burial stones, the Munda communities place the bones of their ancestors under the stone and write their deceased ancestor’s name, date of birth and death date on the stone. The Munda community believes that these stones are home to the souls of the ancestors. They bathe these stones in festivals and offer flower garlands.
Similarly, to demarcate their residential areas, Munda tribals set up another stone, it is called Seemandiri.
Apart from Sasandiri and Seemandiri, there is also a third type of Pathalgadi. However, this tradition has started recently. This Pathalgadi was started in 1996 when the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 i.e. PESA Act came. This Act gives the right to self-government through the traditional gram sabha to the people living in the scheduled areas identified in the fifth schedule of the constitution.
Well, we were talking about an advertisement given by the Raghuvar Das government. After this advertisement was published, there was a sharp response from the tribals, then the state minister Neelkanth Munda had to clarify it. They had to say that Pathalgadi is a tribal tradition. This is the identity of the tribals and the account is even bigger than Khatian. The government is not against it but against the fake Pathalgadi.
Seemandiri done in the jungle of Jharkhand
Regarding this whole matter, it was printed in newspapers as much as it was said on behalf of the government. Munda community’s displeasure with this outrageous advertisement of the government and the intention of the Poshida government in the advertisement remained silent in the newspapers.
Apart from self-government, the PESA Act gives many other rights to the Gram Sabha. In this, the right to control the gram sabhas and local people on the tribal sub plan and other schemes in the state and central budget for the scheduled areas. Along with this, the villagers of these areas have also been given this right in the act that if the government acquires land in scheduled areas, then it will have to consult the villagers first and get their consent from them.
Not only this, the villagers also have the freedom in the act that they can protest the removal from their land and stop it. The Act also states that the lands of the tribals cannot be transferred to non-tribals and the minor minerals of the scheduled area can be auctioned only with the permission of the Gram Sabha. In this act, tribals have got a total of 13 rights.
After the passing of this act in 1996, the tribals buried stones of 10 to 12 feet in their villages and started writing about the rights received in the act, so that awareness among the tribals about their rights increased.
Everything was fine till now. The problem started in 2016, when the BJP’s Raghuvar Das government sent a proposal to amend the Chota Nagpur tenancy and Santhal Pargana tenancy act, two laws made for the protection of the land of the Adivasis during the British rule.
With the amendment of the law, the state government gets the right to acquire the cultivable land of the tribals by citing them for non-agricultural use and developing infrastructure. However, CM Raghuvar Das said that the government is not going to tamper with the law, rather it will be simplified further.
Here, the tribals strongly opposed the proposal to amend the law and they started taking to the streets. A BBC report published on October 22, 2016, states that there were violent clashes against land acquisition, in which half a dozen villagers died in 55 days.
The government was forced to withdraw the amendment proposal in view of the stiff opposition from the tribals. However, by the time tribals had lost their homes. He intensified the installation of the rights granted under the PESA Act-1996 by putting them on the stone. The work of declaring Pathalgadi as anti-constitution starts from here.
The people of Munda community believe that there is a well thought out strategy behind this advertisement of the government.
However, after the advertisement in the newspaper, the matter was calm, but now once again it is in spate. On 25 February, the tribals performed large-scale stones in many areas. There are reports of many people being arrested in this case.
At the same time, Jharkhand CM Raghuvar Das said in a program on February 28 that under the cover of Pathalgadi, anti-national forces are active and the government will crush them.
“Pathalgadi is a centuries-old tradition of tribals,” says Udarkant Munda of Sigid village in Khunti, on the question of a government advertisement calling Pathalgadi as anti-constitutional. Non-tribal CM Raghuvar Das does not know about the constitution. The real thing is that the government wants the tribals not to know about their constitutional rights. Since the constitutional rights under Pathalgadi are put in place by writing on the stone and the tribals are learning about their rights by reading them, the government is calling it anti-constitution so that such stones will not be found. ‘
He on the contrary said that all 30 members of the tribal advisory council should be tribal, but its president Raghuvar Das himself is non-tribal. It is against the constitution.
The above advertisement published in newspapers also said that strict legal action will be taken against those who obstruct the development work being done for the poor and there is a conspiracy to keep the poor always poor. In response to this, Udarkant Munda says, “We are not anti-development nor is the plot to keep the poor in Pathalgadi poor. We also want development in our villages. But, according to the constitution, the fund of development schemes should be given to Gram Sabha and not to any private contractor. But this is not happening.
He further said, ‘Tribals are not poor. We are the Government of India. India is ours. The central and state government is our servant. We also have proof of this. The one rupee note you see is our own. ‘
In keeping with Udarkant’s talk, Premashshahi Munda, general secretary of Adivasi Jan Parishad, says, “Pathalgadi is a very old tradition of tribals and not anti-constitutional at all. The government does not want the tribals to be aware of their rights conferred by the constitution and hence they are trying to describe Pathalgadi as anti-constitutional. ”
This statement of Premshahi Munda is also true to some extent. The awareness among the common tribals about their rights is increasing due to constitutional rights being engraved on the stones. Today, the rights provided in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution and the Chhotanagpur Tenancy and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act are on the tongue of Udarkant and common tribals like him.
Dayamani Barla, a social activist working for tribals and journalist from Jharkhand, said in this regard
Mr. Raghubar government wants to deprive the tribals of the rights given to the Adivasis living in the Scheduled Areas and the Gram Sabha in the Scheduled Areas. Wants to forcibly take away the land of tribals. In protest, the tribals are putting the rights found in the constitution on stone and putting it in public places. This is increasing awareness among tribals. Along with this, tribals are also being organized through Pathalgadi. This is passing the government exasperating, so the government has declared their culture as unconstitutional to break the unity of tribals and deprive them of constitutional rights. ‘
If the tribals did not come on the streets against the said advertisement printed in newspapers, then one reason behind this is that they did not want to get involved with the government. However, it cannot be deduced that they will remain silent in the same way. In the past, tribals have shown their strength against the Koel-Karo hydel project.
The Koel-Caro Hydel Power Project, which came into existence in 1957 under the Second Five-Year Plan, had to be put on the back burner because of this, one lakh tribals not only had to leave their homes but also the stones placed on the bones of their ancestors were washed away. Go, which was not acceptable to the tribals. The tribals protested nonviolently against this project. When the government had offered to build two model villages for the tribals, the tribals had said that first place should be found for the culture.
All kinds of tactics were adopted by the Central and State Governments to start the work of the said project, but the tribals remained adamant on their demands and eventually won the battle.
The tribals say that they are ready to fight more such battles.