Ranchi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to have paid the price for experimenting with a non-tribal as the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, where tribals have a sizable population. Jharkhand was created in November 2000 for the welfare of the people of the region, particularly tribals who constitute around 27 percent of the state`s population. Respecting the tribal population`s sentiment, the BJP named Babulal Marandi, a tribal, as the first Chief Minister.
Marandi was later replaced by another tribal leader Arjun Munda. But after getting a majority in alliance with the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) in 2014, the BJP elevated Raghubar Das as the first non-tribal Chief Minister. But Das hurt the tribal sentiments by amending land laws - the Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act and the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT) - in 2016. The amendment was passed in the Assembly without discussion amid the opposition uproar.
Several memorandums were submitted to the Governor urging him not to accede the amendments. The amendments proposed to acquire land for development projects.
Both laws had been formulated to protect the tribals` lands. Jharkhand witnessed state-wide protests over the issue. Das took all steps to suppress the movement. The protesters were denied buses and the police were instructed to stop them from entering Ranchi. The entire opposition, particularly the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), protested inside and outside the Assembly against the amendments.
At the Assembly poll campaign, the JMM-Congress-RJD combine`s chief ministerial candidate Hemant Soren, himself a tribal, assured to protect water, forest and land (jal, jungle and jameen) rights of the tribals.
Even former Congress president Rahul Gandhi promised to protect them.
The tribals - there are nine tribes in the state - worship the nature and are emotionally attached with their culture, tradition and forest. The tribals have been demanding the Sarna code to protect their culture and the population. The JMM has promised to protect the land, culture and tradition of tribals, but will it bring the Sarna code is to be seen.
Hemant Soren`s father JMM president Shibu Soren had once fought for the rights of the tribal people in the Santhal Pargna region against the money lenders. He used to be a terror among outsiders and moneylenders and went to jail several times for the cause of tribals.