PATNA: Former Jharkhand minister and tribal leader Bandhu Tirkey’s announcement that he would sacrifice a black cow in public “to keep alive tribal traditions” has sparked off a row, threatening a further widening of the divisions between the state’s tribals and non-tribals.
The controversial move by Tirkey, general secretary of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) led by the state’s first CM Babulal Marandi, was triggered by the Raghubar Das-led BJP government’s recent awareness campaign against the tribal practice of patthalgarhi.
Patthalgarhi (installation of monoliths) is an age-old tribal tradition of ceremonially erecting a single, tall slab of rock in villages to mark certain important occasions, demarcate boundaries of villages, to declare rights of the tribal people, and also as gravestones.
The state government recently put out advertisements in newspapers and on TV channels urging people not to engage in the act as the slabs, considered sacred by the people, comes in the way of development schemes. Practitioners of pathalgadhi were also warned of legal consequences.
“We, the tribal people of Jharkhand, will not tolerate such attacks on our ancient customs and traditions. I will sacrifice a black cow close to a patthalgarhi site at Banhora village on February 17. I dare the government to stop me if it can,” said Tirkey, a former education minister.
His announcement alarmed the authorities as cow slaughter is banned in Jharkhand since 2005.
“The Constitution’s 5th Schedule allows patthalgarhi as a lawful activity of the tribal people, who will tolerate no interference in it. Cow slaughter remains an age-old tribal ritual conducted by the priests once every 12 years,” said Tirkey.
JVM chief Babulal Marandi distanced himself from Tirkey’s statements, saying they were not the party’s official views, but he asserted that patthalgarhi and slaughter of cows are part of tribal customs.
“Tirkey is playing a dangerous game to lift his political career. His views aim at inciting communal passions. He has no right to speak on tribal customs because he has converted into Christianity,” said BJP general secretary Deepak Prakash.
Tribals account for 26.2 per cent of Jharkhand’s population of 3.3 crore.