BJP ally in Jharkhand attacks Modi over tribal land rights

Ranchi : BJP ally All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) on Saturday directly attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for allegedly going back on his solemn promise that two laws safeguarding tribal land rights will not be changed.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his election rally in Dumka which I attended had said that no one was born who can grab land of the tribal people. Despite his promises, changes have been made in two land Acts,” AJSU President Sudesh Mahto told reporters here.

Support TwoCircles

AJSU is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s partner in the coalition ruling Jharkhand.

Mahto said Chief Minister Raghubar Das had also promised after taking oath that no changes would be made to Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT) and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act (SPT).

“Under what circumstances changes in the two land acts were now being made,” he asked, referring to an ordinance that the state government has sent to the President of India for approval.

The ordinance reportedly makes it easier to acquire tribal-held land for certain purposes through changes in the CNT and SPT laws.

“The changes would allow land to be acquired for marriage halls and shopping malls and agriculture land to be used for non-agriculture purpose. As an alliance partner we want to know what was the urgency that the changes were proposed through an ordinance,” said Mahto.

What was the urgent need that the state government bypassed the monsoon session of the state assembly in pushing through the ordinance, Mahto said.

“How can the Jharkhand government take such a big decision without consulting legislators of its own party, alliance partner and opposition parties? Besides political parties, the people of the state should have been consulted.”

He said the CNT and SPT laws are at the heart of the interests and sentiments of the tribal and Moolvasi people of Jharkhand and must be treated with utmost sensitivity.

Enacted in 1908, the CNT Act restricts transfer of land belonging to Scheduled Tribes/Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes. However, a tribal may transfer his land through sale, exchange, gift or will it to a fellow Scheduled Tribe member and residents of his own police station area.

The SPT Act also protects the land rights of Jharkhand’s Santhal tribe who primarily inhabit six districts: Dumka, Deoghar, Godda, Pakur, Sahibganj and Jamtara.

The ruling BJP is facing formidable opposition to its move to get the ordinance passed. Its own leaders, including state unit president Tala Marandi, have criticised the move.

The opposition parties Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Congress, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajantraik are already united against the proposed changes to the two laws. The monsoon session of the Jharkhand assembly, held in July, was largely washed off over bitter opposition to the move.