CRPF violating PESA Act in Jharkhandi villages
Date: June 10, 2010
Clause 4.e.(1) of The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, [PESA] says: “ every Gram Sabha shall approve the plans, programmes and projects for social and economic development before such plans, programmes and projects are taken up for implementation . .”
Tribal villages are forcibly entered and village people are humiliated : The sad fact is the CRPF forces have barged into several villages in the Districts of Latehar, Palamu, Sareikela-Kharswan, Khunti, Dhanbad, Bokaro, Giridih, East & West Singhbhum and have forcibly occupied these villages. Even after entering the village, they have not had the courtesy to call on the traditional Adivasi leadership such as the munda / manki / pahan / majhi and explain to them the purpose of their coming. Rather, they go about harassing and humiliating everyone in the village regardless of whether they are young children, old men, old women, or traditional village heads. They pick up people at will and take them for ‘questioning’, and if they don’t get the answers they expect, they beat up young and old alike. Beating up includes slapping and beating on any part of the body with lathis or with the butt of the gun. One can understand when an elder person gives a small beating to a growing child if the latter has done some mischief in view of correcting the child. But when CRPF jawans mercilessly beat up elderly men with lathis and that too in public, it is absolutely humiliating for these men and violates their sense of self-respect and personal dignity. Another innovative punishment CRPF imposes is to make them sit in the hot summer sun till evening without water and food.
Breaking open houses is also common, and there are instances of opening fire inside houses. On 27 April 2010, a woman by the name of Jasmintha Devi, w/o Jayaram Singh, in Ladhi village, Barwadih thana, Latehar Dt. was shot dead inside her house as she was sleeping on a cot. Another man by the name of Pooran Singh of the same village was shot and wounded inside his house. On 30 April, people of the village led by Bharatiya Adhim Janjathi Parishad staged a dharna in front of the Dep. Commissioner’s office and demanded, among other things, a cash compensation of Rs. 5 lakh each for each of the two victims and investigation of the incident by the CBI. Till date, no action has been taken,either by the district administration or by the CRPF authorities.
There have been at least 30 instances of wanton beating up involving about 60 persons in the districts of Kharsawan, Latehar alone. Five instances of forcible snatching of money amounting to about Rs. 60,000 have been reported from these districts.
This gives a sufficient indication of the very unsafe situation faced by the rural population of Latehar District.
Women face a greater danger : CRPF-men barge into houses, kicking open the door regardless of whether the women of the house are with their men folk or alone. They open anything and take away what they like. The little cash people have saved are also taken with impunity. Even vessels are taken for use in their camps; sometimes they are returned, sometimes not. If women, especially young women, are found in the house without their men folk, it is all the worse for them.
PESA Act, clause 4. (m). (ii) endows the Gram Sabha with “the ownership of minor forest produce”
People cannot collect minor forest produce from their jungles : The situation in the forest villages where CRPF has pitched its tent is such that people, especially women and children, are not allowed to go into the forest. Anyone seen coming out of the forest is summoned to the camp and asked which Maoist they have met. If they say they have not met any Maoist but went to collect some minor forest produce, they are slapped and beaten up. One may note here that the summer season is when summer fruits such as mango and leechi fruits are available in the jungle. But people are not allowed to enter and collect these fruits in peace. This itself is a serious violation of the rights of rural people. And, more seriously, a violation of the rights accorded to the Gram Sabha by the PESA Act.
PESA Act, clause 4. (m). (iv) endows the Gram Sabha with “the power to manage village markets…”
For the first time in tribal history, the village markets (bazaar) are closing down. The weekly markets which mainly transact business based on minor forest produce are closing down because people are not coming with these goods to the market any more. As such it deals a severe blow to the tribal rural economy. Besides, the weekly markets are not only a place of economic transactions but also provide a homely atmosphere of social & cultural get-together. Their closure is verily an onslaught on the culture of the Adivasi people. An irreparable damage is being inflicted on the economic, social, cultural fabrique of Adivasi society.
PESA Act, clause 4. (m). (vi) endows the Gram Sabha with “the power to exercise control over institutions and functionaries in all social sectors;”
Children cannot go to school as the school buildings are occupied by CRPF. As of now, 50 school buildings in the districts mentioned above have been taken over by CRPF on a permanent basis and 43 school buildings have been taken over on an off-and-on basis. The Gram Sabha’s consent was not even sought. If schools do not function, mid-day meal also is not given to children. The sad fact is that the mid-day meal is the only ‘full meal’ most children get to eat. Should the children too be kicked in their stomach? This is an unforgivable act against the poor rural children by the state.
Apart from this is the fact that even if the school is not occupied by the paramilitary forces, their very presence in the vicinity and their brutal behaviour with people has created a fearful atmosphere in the village preventing children from going to school.
In November 2009, the Jharkhand High Court, in response to a petition filed by PUCL-Ranchi, ordered the CRPF to vacate all school buildings within six months. Six months have passed, but the High Court order has not been complied with. On 17 May 2010, CRPF has approached the High Court and asked for an extension of another six months, and apparently the court has agreed!
The point to ponder is what happens to the children who have been deprived of their school education first for six months, now for another six months? Obviously it is not the concern of the govt as to what happens to the education of these village children. At the same time, the same Congress-led govt has brought in the Right to Education bill precisely for this group of 6 to 14 – age children. What a contradiction!
To conclude, the way Operation Green Hunt is being enforced through CRPF as the main agent of implementation is absolutely devastating the peaceful life of people in the villages of Jharkhand. In fact, this war of the govt against its own people will have the opposite effect of strengthening and increasing the Maoist forces because the harassed and humiliated people will not find any other human alternative than join forces with Maoist comrades. Will some better sense prevail on those who hold the reigns of power?
[Note: All the facts mentioned above are collated from the reports of people’s movements in the areas occupied by CRPF in Jharkhand state.]
- By Stan Swamy