Withdrawal of all cases related to the Pathalgadi movement was the first cabinet decision of the Hemant Soren-led JMM government in Jharkhand. However, a year on, the state government is yet to send a requisition to the court to withdraw the cases, many of which involved sedition charges, according to the findings of a rights body.
Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, in a report, states that as many as 30 FIRs across Khunti, Saraikela Kharsawan, West Singhbhum related to Pathalgaldi were registered in 2018, of which only 16 cases have been recommended by district committees for withdrawal.
The police had filed cases against 200 named accused and 10,000 unnamed on charges including sedition, obstruction to public servants discharging their duty, creation of public nuisance and criminal intimidation.
Pathalgadi movement argues for self-rule by Adivasis, promised under the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, a 1996 law.
“The district committee, comprising the deputy commissioner, superintendent of police and public prosecutor, has recommended withdrawal of only about 60 per cent of the total cases. In addition to this, the Khunti district committee has recommended removal of only sedition charges from seven cases,” the rights body has said further.
The report adds that the Soren government’s announcement to withdraw all Pathalgadi cases indicated that it acknowledged the “failure of the earlier Raghubar Das government” in understanding the movement and also wanted to “undo the wrong response of the earlier government”.
“However, the recommendation of districts to withdraw just over half the cases and the delay in withdrawing the cases indicate that the political decision of the government is yet to fully translate into action on ground.”
Thakura Munda, a 76-year-old arrested in the case, said: “I stayed in Khunti Jail. I was arrested and sent to Daltonganj jail where my health deteriorated. I collapsed one day…I have been made accused in four cases. I sold paddy and spent a lot of money to come out on bail. Whenever Adivasis fight for their rights, they are crushed.”
The Mahasabha said other victims, such as Ghaghra’s Asrita Mundu, who gave birth to a physically challenged daughter after being beaten by security forces during her pregnancy, are yet to receive any compensation.
“The police is yet to find the perpetrators of murder of activists and traditional heads associated with the Pathalgadi movement such as Ramji Munda, Sukhram Munda and Amit Topno,” the Mahasabha said.
Rights Activist Siraj said: “We have filed a number of RTIs to know the process of withdrawal of the cases. We found that a committee will look into it and send it to the Home Department which in turn will decide the course of action. Out of 30 cases, the committee has recommended to withdraw only 16 cases, which is a matter of concern because the JMM led government announced withdrawal of all Pathalgadi cases. Around 200 people have been named in multiple FIRs. The Home Department later replied to our RTIs that the process is ongoing.”
A source in the government said the file is stuck in the Home Department and will be sent to the court soon.