March 27, 2021 8:38:50 am
MORE THAN a year after the Jharkhand government in its first Cabinet meeting announced withdrawal of all cases pertaining to Pathalgadi, Chief Minister Hemant Soren on Friday gave his nod to the home department’s resolution on withdrawal of such cases. This means that after the Cabinet approval, the government will send a requisition to the court to withdraw the cases filed during the Raghubar Das-led BJP government, many of which involved charges of sedition.
A press release issued by the Chief Minister’s Office said: “…Pathalgadi karne ke kram mein jin vyaktiyon ke khilaaf prathimiki darj kiye gaye hain, un sabhi darj kaando ke pratyaharan se sambandhit greh vibhaag ke prastaav se sambandhit Sankalp prarup ko Hemant Soren ne swikriti de di hai. (CM Hemant Soren has given his approval pertaining to the Home Department’s proposal to withdraw cases against people booked during the Pathalgadi movement).”
The word “Pathalgadi” is drawn from a tribal custom of erecting stone plaques on the tomb of tribal people in Jharkhand, which has 32 tribal communities. It is also done in honour of their ancestors, to announce important decisions regarding their families and villages or to simply mark the boundary of their villages.
During the Pathalgadi movement of 2017-18, giant stone plaques came up outside villages, declaring the gram sabha as the only sovereign authority. The plaques had inscriptions from the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled areas) Act or PESA, which the tribals quoted to claim their independence from the state and assert their rights and culture. While the movement petered out, many villagers alleged they were subjected to “police brutality”, or what they called “state’s repression”.
The press release said that three-tier committees were formed to look into the issue of withdrawal of cases registered in Saraikela-Kharsawan, Khunti, West Singhbhum. It said that 23 such cases were registered in these police stations.
However, the number of cases does not match with the data obtained by a rights body, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, last year on this issue. Also, it is not clear in the press release if the home department has brought a resolution to withdraw all cases.
As per RTI information obtained by JJM, a total of 30 cases pertaining to Pathalgadi were registered, and the sedition charge was invoked in 19 of these cases. The RTI had said that 16 of 30 cases registered in Khunti, Saraikela Kharsawan, and West Singhbhum have been recommended by the district committees for “complete withdrawal”. In one case, only sedition case was recommended for withdrawal.
Jharkhand police had said that of the total 172 accused, they had sought sanction to prosecute 96 people. The charges against them included “attacking police officers with weapons”, “kidnapping officers or bodyguards of the MP with well-planned conspiracy”, “instigating locals to create hurdles equipped with local equipment without any information or permission” and “capturing police station and snatching weapons from the hands of police officers”.
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