PATNA: Amid raucous resistance from legislators of all the Opposition parties and statewide agitations by tribal organisations, the Jharkhand Assembly on Wednesday approved amendments to two crucial, decades-old laws that guarantee protection of land owned by the state’s sizeable tribal population.
The BJP-led government headed by Chief Minister Raghubar Das tabled two separate bills to amend the two laws – Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 (CNT Act) and Santhal Paragana Tenancy Act, 1949 (SPT Act) – despite massive protests by Opposition legislators. The highly contentious changes that got legislative nod have paved the way for the land of Jharkhand’s tribal people being used for industrial and welfare projects.
Tribal politicians, academicians and social activists say the approved amendments would quicken the alienation of land owned by the state’s predominantly poor tribal population.
The Assembly proceedings witnessed ugly scenes as MLAs of Opposition parties such as JMM, Congress, JVM(P), CPI(ML) and RJD displayed a united show of protest, which got unruly a couple of times. A shoe was shown to have been thrown at the chair of Speaker Dinesh Oraon and the microphone on his table was broken.
Chairs were thrown up inside the Assembly by some MLAs and copies of the bills bearing the amendment clauses were torn up. The Opposition parties, who dubbed the amendments as “sly methods for the loot of tribal land,” vowed to intensify agitations statewide and do everything to prevent the implementation of the amendments.
Thousands of men and women, most of them hailing from tribal and indigenous communities living across Jharkhand, participated in a protest march, christened ‘aakrosh rally’ (rally of angst), in state capital Ranchi on Wednesday. Police unleashed water cannons on them and stopped them on their way at Satellite Chowk as they insisted on reaching the Assembly building.
Some major political leaders, including Jharkhand’s first chief minister and JVM(P) president Babulal Marandi, were among nearly 100 people who were detained by police from the rally venue and taken to a camp jail.
While the BJP-led government claims the amendments aim at “simplifying” the use of tribal land in the state for greater public good, a united Opposition has been arguing that “tampering of the two sacrosanct laws” is being done with the “hidden agenda” of making more tribal people homeless.
The Raghubar Das government, whose initial efforts to get an ordinance about the amendments approved by the President failed, had been advised by the Opposition parties to hold back the amendment bills for wider discussion on the issue. Two JMM legislators had resigned from the Tribal Advisory Committee on Tuesday in protest against the government’s resolve to table the bills. Even Jharkhand Governor Droupadi Murmu had on Tuesday asked the government to “think 1,000 times” before tabling any bill in the Assembly.
“We will take every step possible in order to force the government to withdraw these anti-tribal, exploitative amendments to the two laws. Today is a black day in Jharkhand’s history,” said CPI(M-L) leader Rajkumar Yadav.