PATNA: As the tribal people and parties in Jharkhand observed a statewide bandh on Friday – the third in the past 40 days – to protest against changes in tribal land laws, the ageing JMM supremo and Jharkhand’s tallest tribal leader, Sibu Soren, said he would soon launch a public agitation against the BJP-led government.
More than 3,000 people were taken into preventive detention across the state during the daylong shutdown that passed off without violent acts by the bandh supporters. Tribal men and women held traditional weapons in their hands and chanted slogans against the state’s BJP-led alliance government headed by Raghubar Das for bringing in amendments into the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, 1948.
“What has been done to the two laws is extremely bad for Jharkhand’s tribal population. They will now lose land to industrial and corporate houses. I will soon come out in protest of these unfortunate amendments by the state government,” said Sibu Soren, 72, Jharkhand’s tallest tribal politician and a former chief minister.
Widely respected as the father of the Jharkhand statehood movement that resulted in a separate state being carved out of erstwhile united Bihar in 2000, the ailing Soren had been staying away from public engagements for quite some time.
His son and former chief minister Hemant Soren had led processions by JMM activists during a similar statewide shutdown called by Opposition parties on November 25. But now, with Sibu Soren readying to join the protests, the tribal people’s campaign against the amendments is expected to get further momentum. Sibu Sore is also the chief of JMM.
Jharkhand police spokesperson MS Bhatia said the shutdown passed off peacefully unlike the November 25 bandh. “Except the stoppage of rail traffic briefly in Lohardaga, the bandh remained largely peaceful. There was special vigil by police to ensure no untoward incident occurs,” he added.
While the November 25 bandh was called and enforced by a united Opposition comprising non-NDA parties like JMM, Congress, RJD, CPI(ML), CPI(M) and CPI, Friday’s shutdown was one enacted by tribal communities and organisations. Political parties only lent their moral support to this bandh. The Opposition parties said the shutdown was a statewide success, the ruling BJP and its allies dubbed it a damp squib, saying normal life was hardly affected.