March 26, 2018
Fact Finding Committee Report on the Attack on the Peoples
Movements in Jharkhand
The present BJP government in Jharkhand had arrested more than 4000 persons, mostly adivasis, for their participation in peoples movements and also had banned many organizations fighting for the rights of the people. Recently two such movements Mazdoor Sangathan Samiti (MSS) and Popular Front of India (PFI) were banned. A Fact Finding Committee comprising Prof A.Marx, Chair Person, NCHRO, Reny Ayline, National Secretary, NCHRO, Adv. Ansar Indori, ExCo Memmber, NCHRO visited Jharkhand on March 23 and 24 and met some of the organization leaders, relatives of the people in jail and some social activists and spoke to them on the real situation that prevails now in Jharkhand.
MSS is a registered labor organization functioning in the mining and industrial areas in Jharkhand with more than 20,000 mine workers as its members from 1985 onwards. It is fighting for the rights of the workers. PFI is also a registered organization functioning from 2006 onwards in almost all southern states and in some states in North and East. For the past two years the BJP government was threatening to ban PFI. On Feb 15 the central minister of state for home affairs Mr.Kiren Rijiju said that the Kerala government has sought a ban on the PFI. The next day the Kerala CM Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan refuted the statement saying that they never sought a ban on any organization including PFI. The next day the minister said that the DGP of Kerala had spoken about such a ban in the annual DGPs conference and this was also refuted from the office of the DGP, Kerala. In this background on Feb 22 2018 the Raguber Das government ruling Jharkhand announced the ban on PFI.
Both of these organizations are banned by invoking S 16 of the draconian Criminal Amendment Act (CLA) which gives power to the government to ban any organization. However the BJP government ruling Jharkhand said that PFI is influenced by IS and some of its members had joined in it. But the government has not given any proof for its statement.
The people we met and spoke in Jharkhand includes Father Stan Swami of ‘Bagacha’ movement fighting for the rights of the tribals, Debi w/o Damodhar Puri, the activist now arrested after the ban on MSS, Nadeem Khan, a CPI (ML) activist, Tridip Gosh, a retired engineer and HR activist, Hanzla Shiek, state vice president of the banned PFI and many others.
In one sense Jharkhand is the richest as well the poorest state in India. Richest in the sense that Jharkhand possesses the costliest and rarest minerals in its land and poorest in the sense the traditional people of the land are being alienated from these treasures and are deprived of their lands. Recent satellite pictures have revealed that large amount of gold deposits are in Jharkhand.
As per the 2011 census the demographic pattern of Jharkhand is as follows: Hindus 67.8%, Muslims 4.5%, Christians 4.3% and the followers of Sarnaism (Aivasi religion) 12.8%. Adivasis are concentrated in Gumla, Lohardaga and Pashchim and Singhbhum districts. More than 50 to 65 % of the population is Adivasis in these districts. In Ranchi and Pakur districts about 40% are tribals. Their presence is felt in Koderma and Chatra districts also.
Muslims are concentrated in Pakur (35.8%), Sabiganj (34.6%). In Giridi, Godda and Lohardaga, Deogar and Santara they are between 20 and 22%. In Ranchi, Hasaribagh, Garhwaa, Koderma they are between 14 and 16%.
Central India that extends between Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odessa, Jharkhand and part of West Bengal is not only a tribal belt but also a mineral belt. Hence the eyes of the corporates and the central and state governments fell on these areas. But the lands are held by Adivasis. A thre member bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice R.M Lodha has ruled that the owner of the land is also the owner of the subsoil minerals (Civil Appeal No 4549 of 2000, delivered on July 8, 2013). Since the idea of the successive governments was to evacuate the people from their land and handover it to the corporates, the SC judgment is ignored.
The first mining giant who entered into Jharkhand was Tata in Jamshedpur. After independence the Nehruvian slogan “Industries are the modern temples” allowed more and more big companies to enter into Jharkhand and more and more natives are alienated from their land.
The People We Met
We met Father Stan Swami (80) who closely associates himself with the adivasi movement Bagacha in Ranchi. Bagacha means a tribal assembly in which decisions are made unanimously. Quoting a survey made by Walter Fernandez and Alex Ekka he said that 2.4 million acres of land in Jharkhand were now alienated from the tribals and 1.9 million tribal people are displaced from their land. Almost all the riksha pullers and menial workers in the towns like Ranchi or Jamshedpur are from these people says Fr Stan. When Jharkhand became a separate state in the year 2000 the situation worsened. About 104 MoUs were signed with as many industries for all kinds of extraction of minerals from coal to gold.
In the background of the ideological and analytical supports given from outside the Adivasi organizations like Akil Bharatiya Adivasi Sabha began successful struggles from 1990s onwards against mining industries. In some such struggles the adivasis were successful in driving away the corporates . And sometimes even the military efforts to occupy their lands for creating ‘field firing ranges’ were also forestalled by such struggles.
At this stage state repression began to show its brutal face. Anybody who participates and spearheads such struggles is arrested by branding them as Maoists and Naxalites and put into jail. Fr Stan claims that a survey made by them had clearly shown that about 4000 Adivasi youths are now in the jails of Jharkhand. When RTI petitions were filed by them to get information about this, out of the 24 jails only 12 replied and that too after several reminders. Then they went directly and met 102 under trial prisoners in 18 districts who were released on bail. Of them only two out of these 102 people had any connection with Maoists. Thus 98 percent of them are innocents but now languishing in jails.
Last year the central Home Ministry announced that they are going to ban two such tribal organisatins (1) Niamgiri Bachao Andolan (2) Visthapan Virodi Janvikas Andolan. On 15th Feb 2018, Damodar Turi, an activist of Visthapan Virodi Janvikas Andolan was arrested on the charges that he belongs to the now banned MSS. Damodar Turi’s wife Debi said that he has nothing to do with MSS. She is now writing some exams in the hope of getting some job to save herself.
Now Muslims are also targeted
Muslims of India after partition violence didn’t show much enthusiasm to organize themselves in all India basis. Especially the Muslims of north and north eastern India who were the worst sufferers in partition violence were reluctant to organize themselves and fight for their rights. The just privileges like reservation that they enjoyed under the British rule are also lost in the independent India. As the columnist and constitutional expert A.G.Noorani says not even a single demand of the Muslims had been settled by the successive governments till today, but their woes are growing day by day. After the demolition of Babri Masjid and the rise of right wing politics Muslim empowerment has become the slogan of Muslim youths. They also felt the necessity of an all India based Muslim party to voice their just demands. In this background some Muslim organizations begin to develop in an all India basis. Popular Front of India is one among them. It was already strong in south and now it is beginning to spread in North and North East also.
In Jharkand the literacy rate of Muslims is slightly larger than the state average, but in higher education institutions their presence is virtually nil. Though among them 43.5% males and 18.5% females are employed, most of them are found only in household industries. 25.2% are in cultivation; 27% are agriculture laborers; those in state employment are only 6.7%. As far as economic conditions are considered urban Muslims are more deprived than rural Muslims. Urban poverty among Muslims is 30% whereas for others it is only 18% (data taken from Sachar committee Report).
Though Muslims of Jharkhand played an important role in the struggle for a separate Jharkhand state, after the new state was formed only one minister was chosen from the Muslim community in the first ministry after the new state formation. Of the 82 MLAs in the first assembly only 5 were Muslims. The only Muslim MP Farqan Ansari was also defeated in the next election. When BJP rule began in Jharkhand Muslims were more and more marginalized. It is in this background PFI entered in the arena.
In the recent past Muslims of Jharkand were targeted by the Hindutva forces and a number of Muslims were lynched in the name of cow slaughter, abduction of children and all sorts of false charges. In what is popularly known as Saraikala lynching four persons, Mohammad Naeem, Sheikh Halim, Sheikh Siraj and Sajjad, were lynched to death in Sobhapur village in Saraikela Kharsawan district on 18 May 2017. When everybody else including lawyers were not bold enough to fight for justice in this brutal mass murder case it was PFI which fought the case bravely.
When our team was proceeding to Ranchi we heard the news (March 22, 2018) that a fast track court in Ramgarh awarded life imprisonment to 11 of the twelve convicted in Alimuddin Ansari’s lynching that took place in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district last year in June. The court has also directed the district services legal authority (DLSA) to initiate proceedings for ensuring adequate compensation to the victim’s family. In this case also PFI played an important role in getting convictions to the perpetrators of violence against that innocent poor Muslim.
Now PFI is banned by the Jharkhand government and two people were arrested in connection with this under section 17 of CLA Act. One is Themhirdur Rahman a motor cycle mechanic. His workshop is now closed. Another person arrested is Ubaidur Rahman who is the PFI district President of Pakur. A former office of PFI in which it is not functioning at present is also sealed now. Thermihidur Rahman’s brother Saeedur Rahman who is running a service shop helping people who apply for Aadhar or Pan cards was also harassed. His shop was searched and hard discs of his computers were seized by the police without giving any receipt. Now they call him to receive that seized hard disc. But Saeedur is afraid of going there for fear of being harassed and arrested.
When we contacted the state vice president of the now banned PFI Mr.Hanzla Sheikh yesterday and asked him why the BJP government had chosen to ban his organization he replied that no serious cases are against them and not even any Muslim is convicted in any serious crime. No Muslim of Jharkhand was arrested under ULAPA also. There is no news or even rumor that any Muslim in Jharkhand had joined in IS. We once again asked him why then they targeted them. After a moment of thought he listed the following reasons for the state rage against Jharkhand Muslims.
1. In the recent past a no of Muslims were lynched to death in false charges. When even lawyers feared to appear for the victims it is we who fought for justice in almost all the cases and now some of them are sentenced in such cases, (See the attachment)
2. PFI filed cases against Superintendents of Police of Pakur and Jamtara Dts,
3. We filed a number of writ petitions for speedy trials, CBI enquiries and compensation to victim
4. We filed a case against a BJP leader for his hate speech against Muslims..,
5. After independence nobody worked for the upliftment of Muslims. PFI worked in the most backward areas and we made poor Muslims conscious of their rights,
6. We conducted educational awareness and legal awareness programs,
7. We intervened in the mob lynching cases in the name of cow slaughter,
8. The government perceived us as speed breakers of their programmers,
9. We stopped the illegal income of the police,
10. We raised the awareness of Muslims regarding their constitutional rights.
We also met an Urdu professor who repeatedly requested us not to mention his name in our report. He said that atrocities against Muslims have increased in the recent past. Four Muslims were lynched near Jamshedpur on the false charge that they abducted children. Jamshedpur has a long history of violence against Muslims. He also said that PFI is a good organization that worked for the good of Muslims and raised their awareness. He said that as far as he remembered PFI never involved in any violence. Finally he said that Adivasis are also suffering like them. Muslims and Adiivasis should join together. He also demanded the ban on PFI should be lifted.
When we met the Ranchi office secretary of the CPI (ML) party Mr Tapan Goswami and asked him why the state government chose to ban PFI, he replied that his party has condemned it. He continued that land issue is most important in Jharkhand. To acquire the land the government wants to create panic among the masses. It wants to brand somebody as Maoists and somebody else as terrorists.
Mr.Nadeem Khan another social activist and CPI (ML) member told us that the local administration and intelligence agencies had recommended banning of the following organizations: (1) Insaf India (2) Muslim Ekta Munch (3) Bagaicha (4) JCDR – a breakaway group from PUCL (5) PFI (6) MSM. Out of this the state government has chosen PFI and MSM to be banned as a first step. Others will follow, he said. According to him 22 Muslims have been killed in various incidents after BJP came to power.
Anjani Kumar, a social activist whom we met in New Delhi yesterday told that already more than 12 organizations are banned in Jharkhand. He was able to recollect the names of few such organizations; (1) Nari Mukthi Sangh (2) Jharkhand Aphan (3) Communist Yuva League (4) Jharkhand Mukthi Munch (5) Kranthi Kari Buddhi Jeevi Munch (6) Kranthi Kari Kisan Committee.
Usually when the government ban any organization they say that so many cases are filed against that organization and so many people of that organization has been arrested and punished on serious charges. As far as PFI is considered no such cases are filed against its members in Jharkhand. Then why they did it? It is just because they don’t like an organization like PFI which works to increase the awareness of the minority people to develop in an all India basis. They tried to finish it in Kerala where PFI is strong. Since the state government didn’t cooperate with them they had chosen Jharkhand where their own party rules.
1. For the ban on MSS also the state government is not able to put forward any convincing reasons for such an extreme action. Conducting a meeting in which the poet Varavara Rao spoke cannot be a reason to ban a labor organization. The meeting was arranged by Damodar Turi who has nothing to do with the banned organization. He belongs to another organization by name Vistapan Virodhi Janvikas Andolan.
2. The BJP government hates the minorities to such an extent that they should not even conduct an educational awareness program within their community and presenting school kits containing educational materials.
3. Keeping thousands of tribal people as under trial prisoners is really shocking. What prevents the Jail superintends to answer in proper time to the queries sent under the RTI act? Actions should be taken against them.
4. Even among activists we found there is no enough awareness about the plight of Muslims.
5. The BJP government at the centre and the Hindutva forces had chosen Jharkhand as their experimental state for their Rama Rajya. They had banned a number of organisattions fighting for the rights of Adivasis, Mining workers, Muslims and Women. They are having a plan to ban more number of organizations. They hate to see any party developing in an all India basis and fighting for the rights of minorities.
6. There are now 450 non Hindu NGOs that have been black listed in Jharkhand. It doesn’t mean that the government is against NGOs. There are a large number of NGOs run by Hindutva organizations functioning in Jharkhand. The National Health Mission project is now implemented here by such an organization led by Ashok Baghat. When we met an executive of this organization she said that this health program was entrusted to their organization by the present President Ramnath Govind when he was the governor of Jharkhand.
1. The illegal ban on PFI and MSS should be immediately lifted and those arrested in related cases just to justify these bans should be released and the cases against them should be immediately withdrawn. List of the people arrested in related cases are 1. Themhirdur Rahman (PFI) 2. Ubairdur Rahman (PFI) 3. Ajay Hembrum (MSS) 4. Mohan Murmu (MSS) 5. Daya Chand Hembrum (MSS) 6. Damodar Turi (Vistapan).
2. The draconian British imperial Law CLA 1908 should be immediately repealed.
3. All the under trial prisoners should be released on bail immediately and a special court to be formed to dispose their cases.
4. The NHRC and ST Commission should take note of these arrests of innocent adivasi youths in large numbers and necessary action should be taken against the state government. We demand a judicial enquiry should be ordered in this regard.
5. A special court should be constituted to deal the lynching cases in Jharkhand and through a speedy trial the cases should be tried.
Legal Struggles Spearheaded by PFI in Jharkhand
There are no serious cases against PFI cadres in Jharkhand and nobody was punished under terrorist charges or for any unlawful activities. Even then the organization is now banned in the state. The only reason that could be cited for this is:
More and more Muslims are lynched to death in the name of beef and cow in this state. Whenever one is murdered in such attacks by the so called Gau Rakshas, immediately the PFI filed cases against the killers. Recently in such a case eleven killers are punished. To cite a few cases in which PFI filed and helped to file cases in such attrocities :
- Latehar Lynching : Two cow traders Mohammed Majlum Ansari (35) and Inayatullah Khan (12) were killed here on 18.03.2016. A PIL (WPC No 5370) was filed by the State President of PFI Hanjela Shaik in 2016 demanding a high level inquiry by some agency such as CBI. When the court advised the petitioner to file the cases on behalf of the near and dear of the victims, PFI withdrew its petition and helped the family of the victims to file the cases (WPC 7376 and 7430 of 2017). It was PFI that provided legal assistances through a competent lawyer.
- Jamtara Lynching: Minhaz Ansari (22) of Dighari village (Narayanpura) in Jamtara dt was arrested on the basis of a beef related WhatsApp message . He died in police custody on Oct 9, 2016. When the police were torturing Minhaz the Sangh goons were also allowed to beat him. Because of the strong efforts of PFI a murder case was filed u/s 302 IPC against the police and the Sanghis who were responsible for Minhaz’s death. A criminal writ petition for fair investigation and a civil writ petition seeking compensation to the family were also filed on behalf of the family with the help of PFI ,
- Sareikela mob Lynching: On May 18, 2017 four Muslim youths (Shaik Naeem, Shaik Halim, Shaik Sajjad, Shaik Siraj) were lynched to death by a mob a few days before the beginning of Ramzan. The killers justified the crime saying that the victims were child abductors which is not true. The incident happened in Shobapur village in Sareikala dt. A fact finding team was organaised by the PFI District.Secretary Abdul Hannan. Four FIR s filed. 21 arrested. Four Writ Petitions (W.P 301,302, 303, 305 of 2017) filed by family members asking compensation and government jobs to the families.
- A hate message was spread by one Hisabi Rai, a local BJP leader saying that such killings by lynching would be a lesson to the Muslims. He also instructed his followers to spread this news. A complaint was made on 30.06. 2017 demanding action against him (FIR No79/2017, Pakur town PS). When no action was taken on their complaint, a protest march was organized in Pakur by the PFI against the increasing lynching incidents and also demanding action against Hisabi Rai. A lathi charge was unleashed by the local police on the participants and false cases were filed against 63 PFI members including the then Vice President and General Secretary u/s 147,148,149, 341, 323, 353, 332,333, 308, 384 and 120b of IPC (FIR 86?2017, Pakur PS). When 43 of them were produced before the CJM, all of them showed the injuries in their bodies due to police beating in the lock up. But the CJM refused to hear them and they were able to get bail only in the sessions court. A news was published in a leading Newspaper that on hearing that the PFI activists were released on bail the CM called the SP and shouted, “How they got the bail? What were you doing?”
- Because of the continuous peoples movement spearheaded by PFI demanding action against Hisabi Rai, finally a FIR was registered against him. But he was not arrested. Shamim Akhtar , a state committee member of PFI filed two criminal writ petitions in the High court with a plea for CBI enquiry in the hate message case and the false cases against 43 persons who participated in the peaceful march.
One should remember that we have quoted here only a few incidents. It is in this background the ban on PFI is announced in Jharkhand immediately after the Kerala government refused to cooperate with the centre in banning PFI all over India.