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Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha demands probe into activist Ramji Munda’s murder

The activist had exposed the alleged state and police repression during the Pathalgadi movement in Ghaghara in 2018

Priyanka Kavish 27 Jun 2020

ramji munda

Police and State repression of indigenous communities and leaders in India has been going on for decades, and voices of those exposing these ills have consistently been silenced. On June 24, 2020, 27-year-old social and political activist from Jharkhand, Ramji Munda, was murdered near Khunti’s Ghaghra village from where he belonged. He was a part of important fact-finding inquiries conducted by the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM) into the alleged state violence during the Pathalgadi movement and the Burugulikera mass-murder incident.

The Pathalgadi movement done in Ghaghara was allegedly a non-violent response to certain policies of the then BJP state government headed by Raghubar Das; primarily its attempts to dilute land laws, failure to respect the worldview of the Adivasis, implementation of schemes without the consent of the Gram Sabha, neglect of PESA and provisions for the fifth scheduled areas and rampant violations of human rights. Reports had found that the Pathalgadi movement had allegedly faced violence and brutal oppression at the hands of the administration and the police and the Raghubar Das government had charged at least 172 named and 10,000 unknown people with sedition in the Pathalgadi villages.

As per JJM, Ramji Munda had played an important role in bringing to light the alleged human rights violations by the police and local administration that took place in Ghaghara in June 2018 during a planned Pathalgadi ceremony. He had also opposed the allegedly increasing influence of the Satipati cult in villages. The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM) has now demanded an independent probe into Ramji Munda’s death.

Difference between Pathalgadi movement and the Satipati cult

Pathalgadi is a traditional practice of Munda Adivasis of erecting stone slabs (pathals) in honour of their ancestors, to announce important decisions regarding their families and villages or to simply mark the boundary of their villages. Since 2017, pathals painted with Constitutional provisions for Adivasis, judicial orders and their interpretations have been erected in several villages of Jharkhand. The villagers read these provisions and orders to mean the following – 

1) the supremacy of the powers of the traditional Gram Sabha and the traditional Adivasi governance systems, 

2) the rights of Adivasis over land, 

3) the restricted rights of non-adivasis and outsiders in the scheduled areas to settle down and work and 

4) that Adivasis are the original inhabitants and owners of India.

A fight for jal, jungle, zameen, the movement is said to be a non-violent response to the state’s attempts of forceful acquisition of Adivasi land, implementation of schemes without people’s consent, exploitation of Adivasis by non-Adivasis and failure of the government to respect and protect the culture and worldview of Adivasis.

The Satipati Cult (sati means mother and pati means father), allegedly also known as the Ante-Christ Kutumb Parivar, was allegedly founded by Keshari Singh in Gujarat and it essentially denounces the government of India. The current leader of the cult is Keshari’s son, Kunwar Ravindra Sinh. Members of the Satipati cult believe Sinh to be the actual ‘Bharat Sarkaar’ (Indian government) and allegedly do not believe in the Constitution of India. They spread the message that Adivasis must not eat non-vegetarian food, not go to Church or celebrate Sarna festivals. The cult decries the use of government documents and systems like Aadhaar cards, ration cards, PDS system, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, etc. The cult advises the use of its own special ID card and also asks tribals to give up khatiyan (ledger, land related documents).

Fact-finding in Burugulikera killings

On February 21 and 22, 2020, the local newspapers reported that seven men were allegedly beaten up and beheaded in Burugulikera, a predominantly Munda Christian village. According to the news, the dead were all against Pathalgadi, and allegedly the murderers were all supporters of the movement, JJM said.

In order to understand the role of Pathalgadi in the killings, a fact-finding team of various organizations, platforms, social activists, writers and journalists visited Burugulikera on January 27 and January 30, 2020.

The team constituted of representatives from Adivasi Buddhijeevi Manch; Adivasi Mahasabha; National Alliance of People’s Movements; Johar, Chaibasa; Marxist Coordination Committee; alongside organisations associated with Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (Ulgulan Sena, Adivasi Women’s Network, NAPM, Jharkhand, etc.) and some social activists.

Sequence of events

James Budh and others who got murdered opposed the Satipati cult and Ranasi Budh, Jiten Budh and others supported and led the cult. On January 15, James Budh and his companions were celebrating Maghe Parab (a festival celebrated by Adivasis in the Ho region). The next day, they visited Ranasi Budh questioning him why he hadn’t celebrated the festival. It was alleged by the media that James and his companions ransacked Ransi’s home and belongings in the presence of armed People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) men due to which Ranasi couldn’t fight back.

The next day, Ranasi Budh and others called James and his companions from their homes to discuss the ransacking of their homes. According to AC Kutumb Parivar cult supporters, a Gram Sabha was convened on 19 January to discuss the issue of ransacking of houses and abduction of two individuals. It was decided in this sabha that the attackers would be beaten up for their mistakes. AC Kutumb Parivar supporters indicated that the decision to kill was taken in that meeting.

Other than earlier friction between the two groups (the cult’s government schemes), another reason behind the ransacking of houses could be the refusal to celebrate Maghe Parab (a cultural practice, an Adivasi Sarna festival), JJM said. However, the exact trigger that led to the ransacking could not be ascertained, the fact-finding team reported.

The team also brought to light the prejudices of the mainstream media against the Pathalgadi movement and Adivasi worldview. Without investigating the matter adequately, media reports held Pathalgadi responsible for these killings since day one. The team alleged that the media reports showed lack of unbiased ground reporting in the matter.

The entire report of the Burugulikera killings by the fact-finding team may be read below.

Fact-finding in violence at the village of Ghaghara on June 26, 2018

In August 2019, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), a network of several people’s organisations and activists, facilitated a fact-finding inquiry into the motivation behind the Pathalgadi movement in seven villages and the response of the state administration to this movement.

It found that the state responded to the Pathalgadi movement with violence. On June 26 2018, in Ghaghara, a village in Khunti district, a day after the Pathalgadi ceremony, thousands of police personnel allegedly lathi charged at the people. Several people were beaten up with sticks, including the elderly, women and children. One deaf man was beaten as he was unable to hear the instructions given by the police. One woman was stripped and beaten by the mahila police and was unable to move for a week. A pregnant woman, Ashrita Munda, was at home when the police came into her house and beat her with a stick. She reportedly delivered a physically disabled baby. The police vandalised houses, vehicles and livestock.

In addition to using tear gas, the police also allegedly fired at the people. Two people were shot at. One of them, Birsa Munda, died at the spot. Many people ran away from their villages for several months and as a result, also missed the sowing season. The DC denied all the violence unleashed by the police. The violence was not restricted to Ghaghara. People were also beaten in the villages of Uduburu and Jikilata. Several houses were ransacked by the police in ‘kurki jabti’ (impoundment). In Totkara, the police allegedly let their dogs loose on the people. The dogs badly bit a 25-year woman, Mariam Soy.

Apart from this, the police reportedly charged about 100-150 persons and 14000 unnamed people under several charges that include abetment, obstruction to public servants while discharging their duty, creation of public nuisance, criminal intimidation and even sedition. This included 20 people, including activists, writers and journalists, who have been charged with sedition only because they had raised questions, on social media, on the government’s actions in Pathalgadi villages and attack on Adivasi rights. A total of 29 FIRs had been filed against people of Pathalgadi villages, JJM said. There is an apprehension that these FIRs may have charged all the Gram Pradhans of the Pathalgadi villages and about 30,000 unnamed people under various charges, including sedition.

The entire report of the Pathalgadi fact-finding may be read below.

JJM said that Ramji Munda was deeply committed towards protecting and strengthening Adivasi rights. He used to mobilize people on their socio-political rights. It expressed deep anguish on his murder and demanded that the Jharkhand government to ensure an independent and fair investigation into Ramji Munda’s murder (whose findings should be made public) and take legal action against the perpetrators at the earliest.

Given the incident, the JJM also urged that the government ensure the safety and livelihood of Ramji Munda’s wife and seven-day old daughter and talk to the traditional head of Ghaghra village and organise a Gram Sabha at the earliest to assure people of their safety.

Related:

Stop harassment of rights activists in Jharkhand
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes recommends removal of security forces from schools in Jharkhand
NAPM demands withdrawal of FIR against activist protesting unlawful construction
Farmers stood up for basic rights, were shot at, six died: Mandsaur, MP, 2017

 

Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha demands probe into activist Ramji Munda’s murder

The activist had exposed the alleged state and police repression during the Pathalgadi movement in Ghaghara in 2018

ramji munda

Police and State repression of indigenous communities and leaders in India has been going on for decades, and voices of those exposing these ills have consistently been silenced. On June 24, 2020, 27-year-old social and political activist from Jharkhand, Ramji Munda, was murdered near Khunti’s Ghaghra village from where he belonged. He was a part of important fact-finding inquiries conducted by the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM) into the alleged state violence during the Pathalgadi movement and the Burugulikera mass-murder incident.

The Pathalgadi movement done in Ghaghara was allegedly a non-violent response to certain policies of the then BJP state government headed by Raghubar Das; primarily its attempts to dilute land laws, failure to respect the worldview of the Adivasis, implementation of schemes without the consent of the Gram Sabha, neglect of PESA and provisions for the fifth scheduled areas and rampant violations of human rights. Reports had found that the Pathalgadi movement had allegedly faced violence and brutal oppression at the hands of the administration and the police and the Raghubar Das government had charged at least 172 named and 10,000 unknown people with sedition in the Pathalgadi villages.

As per JJM, Ramji Munda had played an important role in bringing to light the alleged human rights violations by the police and local administration that took place in Ghaghara in June 2018 during a planned Pathalgadi ceremony. He had also opposed the allegedly increasing influence of the Satipati cult in villages. The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM) has now demanded an independent probe into Ramji Munda’s death.

Difference between Pathalgadi movement and the Satipati cult

Pathalgadi is a traditional practice of Munda Adivasis of erecting stone slabs (pathals) in honour of their ancestors, to announce important decisions regarding their families and villages or to simply mark the boundary of their villages. Since 2017, pathals painted with Constitutional provisions for Adivasis, judicial orders and their interpretations have been erected in several villages of Jharkhand. The villagers read these provisions and orders to mean the following – 

1) the supremacy of the powers of the traditional Gram Sabha and the traditional Adivasi governance systems, 

2) the rights of Adivasis over land, 

3) the restricted rights of non-adivasis and outsiders in the scheduled areas to settle down and work and 

4) that Adivasis are the original inhabitants and owners of India.

A fight for jal, jungle, zameen, the movement is said to be a non-violent response to the state’s attempts of forceful acquisition of Adivasi land, implementation of schemes without people’s consent, exploitation of Adivasis by non-Adivasis and failure of the government to respect and protect the culture and worldview of Adivasis.

The Satipati Cult (sati means mother and pati means father), allegedly also known as the Ante-Christ Kutumb Parivar, was allegedly founded by Keshari Singh in Gujarat and it essentially denounces the government of India. The current leader of the cult is Keshari’s son, Kunwar Ravindra Sinh. Members of the Satipati cult believe Sinh to be the actual ‘Bharat Sarkaar’ (Indian government) and allegedly do not believe in the Constitution of India. They spread the message that Adivasis must not eat non-vegetarian food, not go to Church or celebrate Sarna festivals. The cult decries the use of government documents and systems like Aadhaar cards, ration cards, PDS system, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, etc. The cult advises the use of its own special ID card and also asks tribals to give up khatiyan (ledger, land related documents).

Fact-finding in Burugulikera killings

On February 21 and 22, 2020, the local newspapers reported that seven men were allegedly beaten up and beheaded in Burugulikera, a predominantly Munda Christian village. According to the news, the dead were all against Pathalgadi, and allegedly the murderers were all supporters of the movement, JJM said.

In order to understand the role of Pathalgadi in the killings, a fact-finding team of various organizations, platforms, social activists, writers and journalists visited Burugulikera on January 27 and January 30, 2020.

The team constituted of representatives from Adivasi Buddhijeevi Manch; Adivasi Mahasabha; National Alliance of People’s Movements; Johar, Chaibasa; Marxist Coordination Committee; alongside organisations associated with Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (Ulgulan Sena, Adivasi Women’s Network, NAPM, Jharkhand, etc.) and some social activists.

Sequence of events

James Budh and others who got murdered opposed the Satipati cult and Ranasi Budh, Jiten Budh and others supported and led the cult. On January 15, James Budh and his companions were celebrating Maghe Parab (a festival celebrated by Adivasis in the Ho region). The next day, they visited Ranasi Budh questioning him why he hadn’t celebrated the festival. It was alleged by the media that James and his companions ransacked Ransi’s home and belongings in the presence of armed People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) men due to which Ranasi couldn’t fight back.

The next day, Ranasi Budh and others called James and his companions from their homes to discuss the ransacking of their homes. According to AC Kutumb Parivar cult supporters, a Gram Sabha was convened on 19 January to discuss the issue of ransacking of houses and abduction of two individuals. It was decided in this sabha that the attackers would be beaten up for their mistakes. AC Kutumb Parivar supporters indicated that the decision to kill was taken in that meeting.

Other than earlier friction between the two groups (the cult’s government schemes), another reason behind the ransacking of houses could be the refusal to celebrate Maghe Parab (a cultural practice, an Adivasi Sarna festival), JJM said. However, the exact trigger that led to the ransacking could not be ascertained, the fact-finding team reported.

The team also brought to light the prejudices of the mainstream media against the Pathalgadi movement and Adivasi worldview. Without investigating the matter adequately, media reports held Pathalgadi responsible for these killings since day one. The team alleged that the media reports showed lack of unbiased ground reporting in the matter.

The entire report of the Burugulikera killings by the fact-finding team may be read below.

Fact-finding in violence at the village of Ghaghara on June 26, 2018

In August 2019, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), a network of several people’s organisations and activists, facilitated a fact-finding inquiry into the motivation behind the Pathalgadi movement in seven villages and the response of the state administration to this movement.

It found that the state responded to the Pathalgadi movement with violence. On June 26 2018, in Ghaghara, a village in Khunti district, a day after the Pathalgadi ceremony, thousands of police personnel allegedly lathi charged at the people. Several people were beaten up with sticks, including the elderly, women and children. One deaf man was beaten as he was unable to hear the instructions given by the police. One woman was stripped and beaten by the mahila police and was unable to move for a week. A pregnant woman, Ashrita Munda, was at home when the police came into her house and beat her with a stick. She reportedly delivered a physically disabled baby. The police vandalised houses, vehicles and livestock.

In addition to using tear gas, the police also allegedly fired at the people. Two people were shot at. One of them, Birsa Munda, died at the spot. Many people ran away from their villages for several months and as a result, also missed the sowing season. The DC denied all the violence unleashed by the police. The violence was not restricted to Ghaghara. People were also beaten in the villages of Uduburu and Jikilata. Several houses were ransacked by the police in ‘kurki jabti’ (impoundment). In Totkara, the police allegedly let their dogs loose on the people. The dogs badly bit a 25-year woman, Mariam Soy.

Apart from this, the police reportedly charged about 100-150 persons and 14000 unnamed people under several charges that include abetment, obstruction to public servants while discharging their duty, creation of public nuisance, criminal intimidation and even sedition. This included 20 people, including activists, writers and journalists, who have been charged with sedition only because they had raised questions, on social media, on the government’s actions in Pathalgadi villages and attack on Adivasi rights. A total of 29 FIRs had been filed against people of Pathalgadi villages, JJM said. There is an apprehension that these FIRs may have charged all the Gram Pradhans of the Pathalgadi villages and about 30,000 unnamed people under various charges, including sedition.

The entire report of the Pathalgadi fact-finding may be read below.

JJM said that Ramji Munda was deeply committed towards protecting and strengthening Adivasi rights. He used to mobilize people on their socio-political rights. It expressed deep anguish on his murder and demanded that the Jharkhand government to ensure an independent and fair investigation into Ramji Munda’s murder (whose findings should be made public) and take legal action against the perpetrators at the earliest.

Given the incident, the JJM also urged that the government ensure the safety and livelihood of Ramji Munda’s wife and seven-day old daughter and talk to the traditional head of Ghaghra village and organise a Gram Sabha at the earliest to assure people of their safety.

Related:

Stop harassment of rights activists in Jharkhand
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes recommends removal of security forces from schools in Jharkhand
NAPM demands withdrawal of FIR against activist protesting unlawful construction
Farmers stood up for basic rights, were shot at, six died: Mandsaur, MP, 2017

 

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