Jharkhand: Five Years of BJP’s Betrayal

- Manoj Bhakt

jharkhand is witnessing an interesting experiment: former CM Babulal Marandi and former leader of the Opposition Stephen Marandi have got together to form Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, ostensibly to further agenda of ‘devleopment’ in the State. At present, Babulal Marandi is the National Vice-President of the BJP, leading party of NDA, the ruling coalition in the State, and Stephen Marandi is the Convenor of the UPA! They have some prescriptions for dealing with the phenomenon of the big steel companies that are descending like vultures on the precious iron ore of Singhbhum. Like the quacks, they intend to peddle these prescriptions in the political market. Without expressing any opposition to the big monopoly capitalists like Mittal, Jindal and Tata, they talk of correcting regional imbalance and setting up small and medium industries. But the burning issues of famine, starvation, unemployment, displacement, and assaults on autonomy of adivasis and panchayati democracy do not figure anywhere on their agenda. Even the question of reviving the hundreds of dying small and medium industries seems irrelevant to them. It is to be noted that in his tenure as CM, Babulal Marandi had announced a ‘Greater Ranchi’ Scheme and had visualised an industrial belt extending from Tata to Ranchi. To further these grand ‘development’ plans, he had pushed for amendments to the Chhotanagpur Kashtakari Ordinance and the Santhal Pargana Kashtakari Ordinances, in order to free tribal land for commercial purposes. The Jharkhand Vikas Morcha is all set to help the Arjun Munda Government to sell out Jharkhand to big profiteers.

In the last five years of saffron rule, this is hardly the first time that Jharkhand’s people have seen betrayal and ‘development’ join hands.

• Democracy itself is at the mercy of hired assassins under the BJP-led Government. The SP Dipak Verma, responsible for the murder of Mahendra Singh - most resolute voice of democracy – has been showered with honours.

• In the name of combing operations to curb Maoism, the police and paramilitary forces terrorise the poor and the tribals.

• The IG and DIG of the State have been accused of raping an adivasi girl; and six months after the allegation, an FIR is yet to be filed in the case! BJP rule has presided over several instances of police firing on tribals – at Doranda, Torpa, Markaccho. The outlines of an ‘ideal’ police state can be seen emerging.

• In the last five years, over 200 people in the State have died of hunger, and the trend continues unchecked. Diarrhoea and malaria are other common killers which rule the rural and tribal areas. The Government seems to have washed its hands of the responsibility for food security and public health.

What was the agenda for the Jharkhand Movement? Restoration of common and tribal land that had been snatched by land mafias in undivided Bihar; proper schemes for rehabilitation of the displaced; better avenues of employment so that people are not forced to migrate; autonomy for tribals; participation of people in governance; and freedom from the stranglehold of mafiadom. BJP rule has not merely betrayed these aspirations; it has launched an all-out offensive on them. BJP rule has become a living nightmare of displacement, backwardness, assaults on tribals’ rights and state repression. The BJP has done all it can to turn the young State of Jharkhand into a happy hunting ground for rapacious companies; a laboratory for fascism and a killing field for mafiadom.

During his tenure, Marandi had played the ‘domicile’ card – and had fanned up frenzy against the ‘outsiders’ inside Jharkhand. On the one hand, the tribal and non-tribal population was mobilised on the narrow issue of domicile, while on the other the coal mafias tried to emerge as the champion of the ‘outsiders’ who had settled in Jharkhand. This was BJP’s first bid to find a foothold and strengthen its roots in Jharkhand. BJP backed off from the domicile issue in the face of the opposition from the mafia forces.

Eventually, it paid the cost for its reign of destruction in its rout in the Lok Sabha polls in May 2004. In the Assembly polls, the weak and directionless state of the UPA allowed it to return to power, albeit only through various shameful backroom deals with independents.

The Munda Government which returned to power promised to turn Jharkhand into Singapore and Paris, and swiftly began to sign a string of MoUs with national and multinational companies for the minerals and land of Jharkhand – all in the name of ‘development’, of course. These MoUs, to the tune of billions of rupees, have never been discussed by the Government in the Assembly. How will the State bear the cost of such shady deals? We can get an idea if we take the example of the recent agreement between the State Government and Tata, in which Tata’s dues to the tune of 4000 crore rupees was excused in return for a promise to build a stadium! Nothing better can be expected from the shady and behind-the-scenes MoUs.

The Munda regime has outstripped the Marandi regime in the ploy to create a rift between the tribal and non-tribal population. By playing the tribals against the non-tribals, Munda has effectively put a spoke in the wheels of the panchayat polls. It is even said that Munda struck a deal with rebels within his own party to scuttle the elections. To begin with, the Munda Government dilly-dallied about holding the panchayat polls. But on orders from the Jharkhand High Court, the ordinance for the panchayat polls was issued. In order to create hurdles, the BJP Government had introduced such amendments in the State Panchayat Ordinance as to enmesh it in legal tangles. After the declaration of panchayat polls, the BJP and NDA started opposing the PESA (the Act intended to extend the panchayat system to notified areas). Note that 112 blocks of the State come under the Fifth Schedule and PESA is applicable in these blocks. Now, various leaders of the NDA are demanding that these blocks be struck off the Fifth Schedule. Eventually, the Jharkhand High Court gave a judgement directing the Munda Government to hold elections after amending the Panchayat Ordinance with regard to women’s reservation and PESA. This, despite the fact that panchayat polls have been held under the same PESA in several states and this judgement of the High Court is highly controversial. However, the Munda Government has neither challenged this judgement nor appealed against it in the Supreme Court. The Munda Government has displayed its enmity towards grassroots democracy and its hostility towards the tribal population.

Sudhir Mehto, leader of the legislative and opposition of the main Opposition party, JMM, (recently in the news because of his close ties with the CM) has danced to the same tune as the State Government on the issue of PESA. Sunil Mehto, JMM MP, has even spoken against PESA in the Parliament. JMM leader Shibu Soren has however, maintained silence on this issue. On the recent deals with corporates like Mittals and Jindals, Soren has said that he wants, not charity but a share in the profits! This statement is an open invitation for corrupt deals. In practical terms, ‘a share in the profits’ will mean junking the agenda of displacement and unemployment of the people, and ensuring a private ‘share’ for the political leaders.

In Jharkhand, no one has any hopes from the RJD on the question of deepening democratisation; the RJD is at present striving to champion the anti-tribal forces. Some adivasi organisation have tries to mobilise adivasis against this anti-adivasi polarisation. But this attempt will soon be hijacked by the likes of Salkhan Murmu and Bandhu Tirki who, rather than striving for broad democratic mobilisation in favour of adivasi rights, rely instead on provocative speeches against non-adivasis (especially Kurmis). This situation has helped the BJP to retain its hegemony.

The Jharkhand Vikas Morcha of Babulal and Stephen Marandi is yet another initiative which serves to create illusions about big corporates among the middle class and give stability to the anti-adivasi polarisation. In this project, the NDA and the UPA are joining hands. While such farces are enacted, the second term of the BJP has also seen popular resentment grow deeper and wider. Mass struggles and protests are seen against impending displacement by corporates, against the alarming famine situation in the State and for the rights of adivasis.

Parallel to the five years of BJP’s betrayal, we have also seen the emergence of militant movements and the leadership of the CPI(ML). After Comrade Mahendra Singh’s martyrdom this year, CPI(ML) has resisted every assault of the BJP on the streets – be it the question of starvation deaths, corruption, State repression, or assaults on industrial labour. After the postponement of panchayat elections, CPI(ML) called for a Jharkhand Bandh on September 7. This successful Bandh not only rebuffed the BJP’s attempt to scuttle democracy, but also resisted the adivasi-non-adivasi polarisation and achieved a broad democratic mobilisation in defence of PESA. Against the MoUs with big corporates, we highlighted the agenda of Rebuilding Jharkhand. While we resisted anti-adivasi polarisation resolutely, we also firmly rejected and offered an alternative to the narrow, revivalist perspective of the stale adivasi leadership. The CPI(ML) faces the challenge of mobilising the masses of poor tribals, landless and workers as well as women, youth and students to give a fitting answer to the saffron betrayal of Jharkhand’s aspirations.