In a new chapter to a political conflict that has lasted nearly two decades, a Chhattisgarh government high-powered committee has ruled that the state’s first chief minister Ajit Jogi is not a tribal and has ordered the revocation of his tribal certificates.
The decision means Jogi, who is currently an MLA from Marwahi, a seat reserved for Scheduled Tribes, will lose his seat. However, this is not the first such decision by a high-powered committee and like before, the Jogis said that the committee was acting in a fraudulent and prejudiced manner and that they would approach the Chhattisgarh High Court and then the Supreme Court.
Eighteen years ago, senior BJP tribal leader Nand Kumar Sai had challenged the tribal status of Ajit Jogi, who has always claimed that he and his family, who fight elections on ST reserved seats, are from the Kanwar tribe.
Ten years later, the Supreme Court in 2011 ordered a high-powered committee to determine the status. In 2017, a committee led by Reena Babasaheb Kangale had submitted a report stating that investigations found that Jogi was not a tribal. The Jogis had then gone to court alleging flouting of rules by the committee.
In 2017, Jogi had told The Indian Express, “In the case that set a precedent for such a committee, the Supreme Court had mandated a seven-member committee”. “In this committee, four people were the same person holding different posts. This is a clear violation and shows the intent of the government. A vigilance team that went to my ancestral village returned with the finding that we are tribals, but the high-powered committee overruled this. We will challenge this. If we are not tribals, then the committee must answer, who are we? How is it that this was never raised when my father served as an IAS officer?”
The Chhattisgarh High Court, in February 2018, asked the state government to reconstitute the high-powered Committee, this time led by Secretary D D Singh, which submitted its report on August 21.
The report, signed by six different government officials part of the inquiry committee, says that Jogi has been unsuccessful in proving that he is from the Kanwar tribe.
It has asked the Bilaspur district magistrate to take action under the Chhattisgarh Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes Rules, 2013, and has directed a DSP rank police officer to recover all tribal certificates from him.
Jogi, who broke away from the Congress in 2016 and formed the JCCJ which then won five seats in the Chhattisgarh Assembly, said, “Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi believe I am a tribal, but Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel doesn’t. This was a committee run by Bhupesh Baghel which has listened to his word. My son Amit Jogi was held as a Kanwar in a court case, and I am not a tribal?”
Amit Jogi has said that he was confident that the courts would not allow this “injustice”. “We had small demands that the proof that you allegedly have against us, whether they are physical or documented, should be shown to us so we can respond. They rejected that. The refused to take on record the gram sabha resolution passed in our favour. They refused to take on record an order of the High Court that held that I am from the Kanwar tribe,” he said.
“This was a one-sided action. We will oppose this decision in the Chhattisgarh High Court and the Supreme Court of India and I have full confidence that no injustice will be done to us.”