Protesting against the amendments to the Land Acquisition Bill that they say is unfair to the community, 60 adivasi men on Sunday defecated in public on copies of the bill near the Barwadih block office of Latehar district in Jharkhand.
The protest was organised by a platform called the National Campaign on Adivasi Rights (NCAR), which has been working in Latehar, studying adivasi-related expenses of the government, like the Tribal Sub Plan and MNREGA. The organisers say they have received invitations from six other sites in Jharkhand to conduct such protests and are considering holding them unless the amendment bill is reviewed.
The Convenor of NCAR said that the idea for public defecation had come from the community. “We held a meeting with our community leaders on the 14th to discuss the nature of our protest. It was some of our young leaders who suggested the defecation method,” said Abhay Xaxa, who is himself an adivasi, hailing from the Oraon tribe. Xaxa, a Ford Fellow, is a PhD candidate at the JNU and is from Jaspur in Chhattisgarh. He also took part in the protest on Sunday.
Xaxa was categorical in declaring that the protest was not against the Constitution: “In fact, considering that 70 per cent of all adivasis in this country have been displaced at various times, I would say no other community has sacrificed more to build this nation.” Quoting psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, who linked the human tendency to defecate in private to social being, Xaxa pointed out that human feces has been used by the tribes of the Andamans against the British as well as the people of South Africa at various times: “Private defecation is what differentiates man and animal. If these people were willing to come forward and do it in public, it tells you of the urgency of the matter at hand.”
The villagers are reportedly agitated most about the fact that the need for consent has been taken away for acquiring land in some cases, along with the need for Social Impact Assessment studies. “The women also wanted to join in, but community elders decided only the men need to do this,” said Xaxa. Jharkhand has had a history of people not being fairly compensated after being displaced. “This was an act of desperation. At the meeting on the 14th, community leaders pointed out that taking out rallies or debating in conference rooms have not worked. If we turn violent, they will call us left wing extremists. This then, was the non-violent and democratic protest we could come up with,” said Xaxa.
Xaxa said that the villagers had been angry with what he termed “corporate land grab:” “What made us work urgently was the fact that the Lok Sabha had passed the bill. The government has been trying to get it through the Rajya Sabha as well. We wanted the rest of the country to sit up and take notice.”