Behind Domicile Controversy in Jharkhand

—DP Buxi

The domicile issue has suddenly captured the centre-stage of Jharkhand politics. The trouble started when the Jharkhand Government issued a notice that applications for recruitment to fill some vacant posts in Jharkhand Police Force must include a “domicile certificate”. This was the first occasion when people started to realise the implications of the domicile policy that was adopted by the Marandi Government almost a year back. The reaction that was generated against this from the people of non-Jharkhand background was spontaneous. At the same time, the reactionary, divisive forces as well as the vested interest groups, particularly from among the saffron camp, lost no time to instigate it further and to blow it up. So, within a short period mobilisations and counter-mobilisations on the basis of pro- and anti-domicile stand surfaced. These developed from a mere controversy to social tensions, and then to social clashes and conflicts — in this way the domicile question was responsible for deterioration of the situation during the four “Jharkhand bandhs” and “counter bandhs” organized over the period between 18 to 26 July 2002. The epicentres of the turmoil were Dhanbad, Ranchi and Tatanagar where instances of physical clashes, armed demonstrations, police firing, curfew and deployment of huge contingents of police and paramilitary forces became a routine affair. As far as the pattern of mobilisation is concerned, it was seen that powerful Jharkhandi actions came up specifically in those areas where anti-domicile movements had at first been organised. Some people say that the militant mood in which thousands of tribal and non-tribal people of Jharkhand origin came up on the streets was simply unparalleled even in the days of fighting for a Jharkhand state!

The most sensitive part of the ongoing controversy was taking “1932” as the cut-off year for determining the “domicile” status on the basis of land documents. The real irony, however, lies in the fact that there was no reference to the year “1932” in the official document of the Marandi Government concerning the domicile policy. The official document categorically states that the domicile status would be determined on the basis of land documents as per the last land survey conducted. It has also been mentioned there that for Class-III and Class-IV jobs in the State Government, “domicile certificate” would be made compulsory. The fact is, however, that there is no uniformity in Jharkhand on the question of land survey; one can even find districts where no survey was undertaken after the Crystal Survey of 1896. Incidentally, it is only in the old Ranchi district that the last survey was conducted in 1932, and this has been generalised and propagated by the vested-interest groups as the cut-off year for the whole state!

Complications on the “domicile” question arose because, on the one hand, it reflects the genuine aspirations of Jharkhandi people, tribals in particular, against age-old oppression and deprivation; but on the other, for narrow practical purposes, it has been maliciously mishandled by the saffron regime with an intent to pursue a divisive scheme that might divert the growing popular anger against its misrule.

The question is why did the tribal and non-tribal people of Jharkhand hold such massive and militant demonstrations when the Marandi government was itself taking care of the local people’s interest on the question of jobs? Here one must keep in mind, firstly, the background of long deprivation and social oppression suffered by the tribal and non-tribal people of Jharkhand at the hands of non-Jharkhandi marauders; secondly, the anti-domicile mobilisation engineered by the non-Jharkhandi mafia acting as the immediate provocation and thirdly, the feeling among the Jharkhandi people of being cheated by the Marandi government itself. In this connection, it should be noted that its so-called pro-Jharkhand and pro-tribal policies (including the proposed Scheduled Area in Panchayati Raj Act) have remained largely unimplemented so far.

However, one cannot overlook the fact that the anti-domicile mobilisation was also instigated by notorious mafia forces belonging to the saffron camp. They utilised the anger of the youth of non-Jharkhand background against growing unemployment. BJP leader Kailashpati Mishra stated before the media that the recent violence in Jharkhand was engineered by Christian Missionaries. Curiously, Babulal Marandi was also present there. In fact the saffron scheme of exploiting the domicile issue originates from the desperation of expanding the BJP base among Jharkhandi tribal and non-tribal people in the aftermath of its humiliating defeat in the recently held Dumka by-election. In this battle the saffron forces have been active in both pro- and anti-domicile camps (BJP and NDA have never objected to this deliberate duality). It should be noted that in the face of pressure from within to withdraw the “domicile” policy, Marandi has convinced the BJP leadership that under a recent order of the Chandigarh High Court, a state government has no authority whatsoever to lay down a domicile policy, which is under the jurisdiction of the Central government. So his proposed policy will be struck down by the court itself; there is no need to withdraw it. In the bargain it will serve twin purposes: adivasis will look upon BJP as the party working most sincerely for their cause, and non-Jharkhandi or upper caste interests will also not be actually harmed, and, realizing the BJP’s motive, they would also not get alienated.

However, the recent clashes in Jharkhand also reflect an objective social conflict, which intensified due to the growing assertion of the Jharkhandi people against the domination of non-Jharkhandis in the socio-economic life of the state. Obviously the Left and democratic forces are duty bound to stand by the tribal and non-tribal people of Jharkhand in order to accomplish the pending “social justice”. In concrete terms, they must support the protection of jobs for local Jharkhand people and instead of seeking a so-called “balance”, must promote the unification of Jharkhandi and non-Jharkhandi working people on the basis of protection and assertion of Jharkhandi people in unequivocal terms.

However, not remaining content with mere interpretation of the “domicile” phenomenon, if one wishes to transform the situation, one must fulfill the crucial task of democratising the aspirations of the Jharkhandi people and strengthening the democratic struggle on the soil of Jharkhand against the saffron regime.

First of all, the more burning economic questions must be brought to the fore: security of jobs, protection of tribal land, problems of the displaced persons, including return of unutilised land, etc. Moreover, demands like creation of employment avenues, at least filling up the posts lying vacant under the state government, etc must also be raised. In the ongoing struggle of Jharkhandi people’s assertion it is imperative to narrow down the target of attack and to isolate the vested interests. The dynamics of Jharkhand movement shows that the most effective phase of the movement represented a unique unity of tribal and non-tribal people and individual workers of non-Jharkhandi background.

Secondly, non-Jharkhandi people must not be confused with the mafia forces who share a common socio-geogaphic background and who have been responsible for the massive loot of public money and growing criminalisation of politics in Jharkhand. The common working people of non-Jharkhandi background would gradually realise that it is not reliance on mafia forces but unity with Jharkhandi people that can ensure protection of their basic rights and dignity. In addition, non-Jharkhandis must be mobilised against the saffron regime which has declared a war against their main source of employment by closing down the big PSUs in Jharkhand. It is these forces that are instigating conflict among the common people of Jharkhand to avert a broad militant struggle against denationalisation.

Thirdly, left and democratic forces now must raise the burning issues like the ongoing severe drought and employment, demand largescale introduction of food for work project in rural areas and intensify the popular struggle against the utter failure of the saffron regime to resolve these issues.

We must understand that tribal assertion is the basic content of the question of protection of Jharkhandi people because historically the tribals represent the most deprived and oppressed category in Jharkhand. For any meaningful assertion of tribals in the present system, the question of autonomy under the Sixth Schedule within Jharkhand State must be upheld. Of course, holding of Panchayat elections to implement the provision of the “Scheduled Areas” for tribal people under the Fifth Schedule and reservation of 50% seats in the Jharkhand Assembly for SC/ST must be championed as the immediate demands.

Resolutely standing by the aspirations of the Jharkhandi people, the CPI(ML) is striving for an effective intervention in the situation with the above-mentioned comprehensive approach. The Party must utilise its growing profile as the champion of democratic aspirations of Jharkhand to check the present “diversion” in Jharkhand politics and strengthen the democratic struggle in a creative way, by combining three crucial aspects viz. protection of Jharkhandi people’s interests, assertion of the tribal people and unification of the broad toiling people in Jharkhand. In this context we should remember the 12-point agenda presented in the booklet issued by the CPI(ML) just after the formation of Jharkhand state as the agenda of “Reconstruction” of the newly formed state. Three main issues included in the agenda were: identification and confiscation of black money accumulated since 1969, the year of coal nationalization; reservation of 50% seats in the Assembly for SC/ST; and introduction of district councils for the tribal people under the Sixth Schedule as effective autonomy.

As for the other political parties, the Congress generally stood by the Jharkhandi aspirations and attempted to consolidate its control over the tribal people through the Adivasi students organization; the RJD tried to woo the non-Jharkhandi (Bihari) sentiment; the JMM adopted a hotch-potch stand reflecting its “sarvajan samaj” tactics — although the leaders at lower level sided fully with the pro-domicile stream. Among the left, the CPI(M) virtually opposed the domicile question and the other left parties offered inactive support to Jharkhandi aspirations. In this situation, the potential of our stand, approach and tactics regarding the “domicile” issue must be realised in order to channelise the Jharkhandi in a democratic direction.

After the fascist experimentation in Gujarat, saffron fascism has experimented with a divisive policy in Jharkhand in the garb of “domicile” issue. It has further intensified the state terror that was initiated in the name of stability and peace as against “extremism”. Living in a fool’s paradise, the saffron forces have forgotten that the situation is different in Jharkhand. Here there is a deep-rooted left and democratic tradition. Contrary to their dreams, it is the left and democratic forces that would ultimately assert here and with a powerful democratic struggle to oust the saffron forces, will create a new Jharkhand in a new India.