RANCHI: The tribal inhabitants of Khunti district of Jharkhand are planning to lay the foundation stone for a ‘Gram Sabha’ Bank and the central office of ‘Adiwasi Shiksha Board’, to be run by tribals on their own, at Udburu on Sunday. This follows ‘Patthalgadi’ events in more than 62 villages in the area.
‘Patthalgadi’ is an age-old tradition of tribals in Jharkhand wherein they erect monoliths in the name of their ancestors on the borders of villages. Of late the tradition has been revived as a form of protest, allegedly by some anti-social elements, to prevent the entry of administrative officials and outsiders into the area by putting up giant plaques declaring the gram sabha as the only sovereign authority there. It has become a common practice in the interiors of Khunti and its adjoining districts of Chaibasa, Simdega and Seraikela-Kharsawan.
The police, considering it to be the result of illiteracy in the area, are resorting to intensive awareness programmes among villagers to discourage such actions. In spite of warnings from the state government that strict action will be taken against those found involved in ‘Patthalgadi,’ such events were held in at least eight villages of Khunti on May 27, following which Yusuf Purti, who is related to Adivasi Mahasabha, announced that he would lay the foundation stone of a ‘Bank of Gram Sabha’ and the central office of Adivasi Shiksha Board on June 3. Villagers have already started acquiring six acres of land at Udburu, where the foundation stone is to be laid.
Though the district administration has been put on alert and it has ordered action against those involved in the planned events, it believes that the problem can be dealt with only by creating awareness among the villagers, who are mostly uneducated. “As it is an outcome of illiteracy among the villagers, as most of them do not understand what they are doing, we believe that it can be resolved only by creating awareness among the villagers,” said Additional Director General (Operations) and Jharkhand Police Spokesperson RK Mallick.
Strict action was being taken against those creating mischief, he added. “We are not against ‘Patthalgadi,’ but the distorted form of it cannot be allowed, where they have been defining the provisions of the Constitution in their own way,” said a district-level officer, requesting anonymity.
Villagers claimed that they were compelled to resort to ‘Patthalgadi’ to save their land.“The state and Central governments want to acquire our land illegally,” said a ‘Patthalgadi’ activist.