RANCHI: Tribals are the rightful owners of India and all other residents of the country are to be treated as foreigners. Government documents like Aadhaar card and voter ID card run afoul of tribal laws. Elections are unconstitutional and, hence, should be boycotted. These are among the grand messages that 'Pathalgadi' activists are trying to propagate among tribals.
Pathalgadi is the ceremony of erecting stone slabs as a sign of respect for departed elders. Critics say these activists misuse it by inscribing slogans targeting non-tribals purely for the purpose of fomenting unrest among tribals. For example, these activists call non-tribals and even the Union government as 'diku' or outsiders. They do this by interpreting provisions of the Constitution in their own way.
While many motivated 'Pathalgadi' ceremonies have been held in the recent past, they mostly highlighted the provisions of the PESA Act in the inscriptions. However, in the latest incident on Tuesday where three Pathalgadis were performed in three villages in Jharkhand's Khunti district, messages targeting non-tribals were found.
PESA or the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 is a law enacted by the Government of India for ensuring self-governance through traditional Gram Sabhas for people living in the Scheduled Areas of India.
The latest Pathalgadi had different inscriptions saying the lease agreement with non-tribals and Brahmins expired in 1969 and hence they have no right to stay in the country. Interestingly, the inscription on the monolith also cites provisions of Land Revenue Rule Gujarat 1921, Gandhi Irvin Pact 1931 and Government of India Act 1935.
It was also written that Aadhaar card and voter ID card -- two crucial identification documents for a citizen -- are anti-tribal. Inscriptions on the monolith also declare elections in the country as unconstitutional suggesting that polls may be boycotted in the region.
On their part, the villagers claim Pathalgadi is a means to protect their land.
"It is clearly written in the Constitution under Article 16 that if interference from outsiders affects your culture, you can stop them from entering the region. Still, if the government feels the interpretation done by us is wrong then they must interpret it correctly and bring it before us," said a Gram Pradhan, also a Pathalgadi activist, on condition of anonymity. If the government is not able to clear it, the Supreme Court must take cognizance removing all confusion in this regard, he added.
The Gram Pradhan also warned that if the state government did not give villages coming under Scheduled Areas their due, it will have far-reaching impact. He noted that the tribals of Jharkhand are of the belligerent type who fiercely fight for water, forest and land. They may go to any extent for their rights, he cautioned.
Pathalgadi is an age-old tradition of tribals wherein monoliths in the name of their ancestors are erected on the borders of villages. It has recently been revived as a form of protest, allegedly by vested interests, to prevent outsiders including administrative officials from entering tribal areas. The giant plaques erected during Pathalgadi declare Gram Sabhas as the only sovereign authority.
Pathalgadi has become a common practice in the interiors of Khunti and its adjoining districts of Chaibasa, Simdega and Seraikela-Kharsawan. Four blocks of Khunti - Khunti, Arki, Murhu and Torpa -- are the worst affected by it. These areas cover a population of over 1.5 lakh.
What the Pathalgadi inscriptions say
Only tribal are the landlords in India
Tribal have full rights over their land and natural resources
Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 says permission from Gram Sabha must be taken before implementing any scheme in the area
Govt wants to acquire tribals' land illegally
Gram Sabha is an age-old tradition of tribals
Anyone who is not a tribal is a foreigner
Tribals must have full control over administration in Scheduled Areas