PATNA: Black flags were shown and a shoe was hurled at Jharkhand CM Raghubar Das in the southern town of Kharsawan on Sunday by a group of tribal people protesting against recent changes in two important tribal land laws.
As Das, who marked the second anniversary of his government in the state last week, reached the Shahid Park to pay tributes to tribal martyrs at a memorial, about 100 people in the gathering held up black flags and chanted slogans against the state government. As security personnel accompanying Das could tried to stop the protesters from coming closer to him, one of them hurled a shoe in his direction. The show, however, missed the target, said an official present at the site.
The BJP-led government that Das heads in Jharkhand brought about significant changes in two decades-old tribal land laws to pave the way for land owned by tribals to be acquired for industrial and welfare projects. The two laws – Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, 1948 – are widely considered sacred by Jharkhand’s sizeable tribal population as they contain strict provisions to prevent the alienation of the indigenous people from their land. The Das government’s action of getting the changes passed in the state Assembly led to massive statewide protests last month.
BJP leaders in the state played down the protest in Kharsawan, saying it was a stray incident and that Jharkhand’s tribal people have understood the benefits of the amendments in the two laws despite claims to the contrary by the Opposition parties.
The stone slab at which Das offered floral tributes memorialises the deaths of hundreds of tribal people in Kharsawan on January 1, 1948, in what was arguably the first police firing in independent India. A huge gathering of tribal people of the region demanding a separate tribal homeland was fired at by police for having defied prohibitory orders. Some sources put the number of deaths in thousands, claiming the administration has dropped hundreds of bodies in wells.