Chief Minister Hemant Soren is mired in sex scandals; he is unable to curb rising Maoist and missionary activities in tribal areas. Taking advantage of deteriorating law and order situation, there was an attempt to stage a Pathalgadi-like incident
–Vijay Deo Jha, from Ranchi
Protesters with the plaque that they tried to install near Jharkhand High Court in Ranchi
There is something rotten in the state of Denmark? What Shakespeare had written in ‘Hamlet’ about four hundred years back; is tempting to admit that there is something rotten in Jharkhand too.
In the 2019 Assembly election, people had blessed the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) boss Hemant Soren heading the JMM-Congress-JMM combine with a massive majority. The ruling BJP was left licking its wounds as even the party’s sitting Chief Minister, Raghubar Das, suffered a humiliating defeat. The BJP lost the election chiefly because of the anti-incumbency wave against Raghubar Das, who should be acknowledged for fast-tracking development in Jharkhand.
There is no Shakespeare in Jharkhand, though, to record the sorry saga of the unmaking of Jharkhand, State lapsing into lawlessness again and growing disappointment of people with the current government. Even the Chief Minister is accused of instrumenting communal and ethnic polarisation
Creating a Rift between Tribals and Hindus
Hemant Soren recently sparked a controversy when he said that tribals were never Hindus and they never will be. During the last week of February, he said this while delivering a virtual lecture at the 18th Annual India Conference at Harvard University.
The Chief Minister insisted that the Central Government must introduce a separate religion column ‘Sarna’ in the census for tribals so that their distinct ethnic-religious identity as nature worshipper is maintained.
Tribals across the country have long been demanding a separate religion code. In November 2020, a special one-day session of the Jharkhand Assembly was called that unanimously passed a resolution seeking Sarna’s inclusion as a separate religion in the census scheduled to start in 2021.
Despite a distinct religious and cultural tradition, tribals share a close and inseparable bond with Hinduism, and often Hinduism and Sarna appear as flip sides of the great Sanatan pantheon. A separate Sarna code is also one of the demands of Christian missionaries and activists in Jharkhand, for whom Jharkhand has been the prime land for conversion among tribals.
Criticising the Hemant Soren’s comments, Jharkhand BJP spokesperson Pratul Nath Shahdeo, said, “Chief Minister is speaking the language of the Vatican when he tries to create a rift between tribals and their non-tribal Hindu brethren. Conversion of tribals into Christianity is the single agenda of Christian missionaries. They can’t tolerate Sarna replicating Sanatan. Under the regime of Hemant Soren, Jharkhand has become a cauldron of dangerous political and communal conspiracies. Things have rotten in Jharkhand,” remarked.
Christian missionaries particularly felt suffocated during five years of BJP rule in Jharkhand. The Church was unhappy over the BJP government enacting anti-conversion law. So, when the BJP lost Jharkhand, Archbishop of Ranchi Felix Toppo described it as a ‘Christmas gift’ and said how they feel relieved and delighted. The BJP accused missionaries in Jharkhand had campaigned against the BJP in the parliamentary and assembly elections.
It was widely felt that the rot has affected the administration to the extent that Jharkhand Police conveniently became the ruling establishment’s political tool rather than a professional body.
In March 2020, Hemant Soren picked MV Rao as interim DGP of Jharkhand Police till he was replaced in mid of February this year.
“This was like a police State. FIR was lodged against opposition leaders and workers even for making political statements. The allegations are so flimsy in nature that these can’t withstand scrutiny of law. State police worked as a political agent of the government. Our state president and Rajya Sabha MP, Deepak Prakash was booked just because he stated that the Hemant Soren Government will soon collapse. I was booked for referring to a senior Congress leader accusing his own party and government of the plunder of resources of the State,” Shahdeo said.
BJP’s Godda MP Nishikant Dubey has been named in a number of FIRs filed by Jharkhand police and others. Dubey has relentlessly been raising his voice against the Jharkhand Government and Hemant Soren.
This wash of dirty linen in public has only resulted in skeletons in the cupboard tumbling out, and this is more embarrassing and damaging for Hemant Soren. A Mumbai based model charged Hemant Soren for allegedly raping her in 2013. Now the matter is pending before Mumbai High Court. Woefully, neither Hemant Soren nor his wise close coterie realise how badly it has dented the government as well as Chief Minister’s image.
It seems serious troubles have been brewing within the JMM and the government and Chief Minister rushes for post-correction only after damages are done. In July last year, the Chief Minister ordered the expulsion of Ravi Kejriwal from the party. Kejriwal, the JMM treasurer, was not only the fund manager; he was also family friend of Hemant Soren, who wielded power and confidence of Chief Minister. At the same time Chief Minister removed Gopalji Tiwari as OSD of Chief Minister and ordered a vigilance inquiry against him for amassing disproportionate assets. Tiwari was the favourite pick of Chief Minister.
Neither the JMM nor the government came with an explanation if the Chief Minister guillotined two of his favourites, but it led people to believe somewhere something is rotting in government.
The previous government was plagued by the rise of Pathalgadi movement. Pathalgadi is part of the tradition of the Munda tribe, where stone slabs are erected in the memory of the deceased. Besides, stone slabs are erected on important occasions, declaration of decisions as well as marking village boundaries. Khunti remained the worst affected district. But the tradition was twisted to serve a sinister design to provoke tribals to proclaim their liberation from the State. Government officials were banned from entering villages during which violence was witnessed. State police and government had claimed that it was a well-planned multilayered conspiracy by the Left-liberal to challenge the State’s authority.
Right after Hemant Soren took office, he announced the withdrawal of all criminal cases related to the Pathalgadi movement. It just emboldened Pathalgadi supporters, and the repercussion was felt less than a month when seven tribals at Burugulikera village in West Singhbhum district were massacred by the armed squad of banned extremist organisation PLFI.
The Pathalgadi movement, which reared its head in Khunti in 2017-18, is now haunting Ranchi, the State capital. Attempts were made to repeat Pathalgadi near Jharkhand High Court and Jharkhand assembly. Similar demonstration was done at Obaria village under the Airport police station area. They are opposing five acres of land leased out to an outfit run by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 2018.
The BJP alleges that parliamentary democracy has suffered the worst under the current government.
“This is happening probably for the first time in India’s parliamentary history where the government is preventing selection of the leader of Opposition. The BJP legislative body had elected Babulal Marandi as the Leader of Opposition. But the assembly speaker has denied it. This is an attempt to suppress the voice of Opposition. Hemant Soren government is undoing all good works done by the BJP led government. His regime will be known for the decay of Jharkhand,” said BJP MLA Anant Ojha.