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Jharkhand election results: Pathalgadi movement fails to dent BJP’s fortunes

Jharkhand election results 2019: The Pathalgadi movement has its roots in 2017-18 and began as a people’s reaction to lack of development. Giant stone plaques had come up outside villages in districts around Khunti, declaring the gram sabha as the only sovereign authority.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 23, 2019 10:38:36 pm
Tribal women near a stone plaque in Jharkhand’s Khnuti. (File)

Even though the BJP seems to have fared poorly in the Santhal Pargana region in Jharkhand, it has bagged four of the six seats in areas that witnessed tribal dissent in the form of the Pathalgadi movement. As per latest trends, BJP was leading in Khunti, Torpa, Simdega and Saraikella while the JMM-Congress combine was ahead in Kolebira and Tamar.

At Khunti, ground zero of the Pathalgadi movement, when giant stone plaques had come up outside villages, declaring the gram sabha as the only sovereign authority, BJP’s Nilkanth Singh Munda won by 26,327 votes. Follow LIVE Updates

That the constituency voted overwhelmingly in favour of BJP can be gauged from the fact that Munda cornered nearly 45 per cent of the vote share. The notion that tribal journalist and activist Dayamani Barla, who contested on a JVM-P ticket, may divide the anti-BJP votes seems to have borne little fruit.

The Pathalgadi movement has its roots in 2017-18 and began as a people’s reaction to lack of development. Giant stone plaques had come up outside villages in districts around Khunti, 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.

Even though the movement has fallen silent since then, following a crackdown and the arrest of top Pathalgadi leaders, villagers have not forgotten what they call “police brutality” and “state’s repression”. A total of 19 cases of sedition have been invoked against 172 people.

In Torpa and Saraikella, which was won by JMM in 2014 elections, BJP candidate Koche Munda and JMM candidate Champai Soren won the elections this time.

While the Pathalgadi movement did not find mention in any of the rallies by the BJP or Raghubar Das, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi assailed the government over a report that claimed over 10,000 Jharkhand Adivasis were booked for sedition in a single district between 2017 and 2018.

“That any Govt. could slam the draconian ‘sedition’ law on 10,000 Adivasis, fighting against state oppression, should have shocked the conscience of our nation & raised a media storm. But it hasn’t. Our “sold out” media may have lost its voice; as citizens can we afford to?” Rahul Gandhi had said.

The Pathalgadi movement, however, had resonance in the May Lok Sabha elections. Around 100 villages with a combined population of around 20,000 had pledged to boycott the general elections. And the result was palpable: Arjun Munda, who would go on to become the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs, won by a thin margin of just 1,445 votes.

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