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India Elections Modi tries to placate 10,000 'traitors' invoking tribal pride

Modi tries to placate 10,000 ‘traitors’ invoking tribal pride

Modi is aware of the callous attitude with which the local administration had slapped the tribal people of Pathalgadi with treason in 2017-18

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today addressed an election meeting in Khunti where about 10,000 people were charged with sedition for their activism to preserve the local Adivasi culture.

Between June 2017 and July 2018, cases were filed against members of the tribal population for violating law and order. The tribal people here had, using their Pathalgadi tradition to raise their voice against the government, erected large stone structures outside the villages and scribbled their rights on the stones.

People from different villages attend a programme at Kochang village in Khunti on 7 April 2018
People from different villages attend a programme at Kochang village in Khunti on 7 April 2018 | Photo Credit: Manob Chowdhary, The Hindu

Interestingly, no common law of Parliament or State Legislature is applicable in tribal areas under the rights of indigenous populations enshrined in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. Also, in these areas, the fundamental rights of the people of the non-revision system do not apply.

Not only this, there is a complete ban in the tribal areas on the movement of people belonging to the non-religious system, employment and trade. Earlier, these tribal people used to cherish their ancestry and memories of their ancestors on these stones. As soon as the tribals felt that their land was going to be snatched, they adopted a rebellious attitude.

But this was overlooked by the local administration while filing the cases.

After the conflict between the police and tribals intensified, cases were filed against 11,200 people of Khunti, out of which 10,000 people were charged with treason. After the cases were registered, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi had raised his voice against these cases and tweeted that such news should have shaken the consciousness of the country. However, having been discredited for a prolonged history of awkward statements, Gandhi was not taken seriously.

Perhaps to placate the crowd in such a place, the prime minister began his speech with an ode to Kariya Munda who, Modi said, had taught him how to understand the people of remote corners of the country during his formative years in politics. Modi followed that with wholesome praise heaped on Arjun Muna who, the prime minister said, had spoken so well that his own speech was no longer required.

To marry BJP’s ideological Hindutva with the locals, the prime minister said that Prince Ram turned into Maryada Purushottam Ram because he had undergone 14 years of penance in the company of tribal people. Researchers believe that the monkeys and bears mentioned in the Ramayana were actually not monkeys and bears but tribal people who used symbols of these animals as totems for their clans.

Modi in Khunti of Jharkhand
Birsa Munda

While the people in Jharkhand speak Hindi in public spaces, the prime minister chose to begin his speech in a dialect of the tribal people. The languages spoken by the tribal people of Jharkhand are Santali, Mundari, Ho, Birjiya, Oraon, Kurukh and Kharia, which evolved from Ardhamagadhi Prakrit and Adi-Dravidian prototypes. The prime minister spoke his first few lines in Santali.

This meeting preceded the second round of Jharkhand Assembly election. While the prime minister was supposed to arrive at the meeting at around 11 AM, he began addressing the crowd when it was almost 1 PM.

In Khunti, the BJP has repeated Nilkanth Singh Munda, a minister in the Raghubar Das Cabinet, its candidate.

Prime Minister Modi repeatedly referred to freedom fighter Birsa Munda as “Bhagawan”.

Before the first phase of Jharkhand Assembly election, Prime Minister Modi had held two big election meetings on 25 November: in Daltonganj and Gumla.

Today, after enlisting several development projects that the Das government executed in Jharkhand, the prime minister said that the State was now 19 years old and needed the kind of parenting a grown-up adolescent did. He said he was ready to play such a patron for Jharkhand.

Elections are being held in five phases for a total of 81 seats in Jharkhand. Polling for 13 seats was held on November 30 for the first phase, while the second phase is scheduled to be held on 7 December. After this, voting will be held on 12 December for the third phase, on 16 December for the fourth phase and on 20 December for the fifth and final phase. At the same time, the results will come here on 23 December.

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