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Many Faces of the Pathalgadi Movement in Jharkhand

Anjana Singh (anjanasinghncr@gmail.com) teaches at the Department of History, Nirmala College, Ranchi University, Jharkhand.

The Pathalgadi movement has not only generated a new spate of Adivasi identity assertion around a customary practice, but also questioned the very notion of governmentality and development through the meaningful empowerment of the gram sabha as an alternative agency of village governance. It has emerged as a multifaceted movement that has political, ethnic, and ecological overtones.

The author would like to thank the reviewers for their valuable comments, which helped improve and enrich the article. The author is grateful to Asoka Kumar Sen for his help in creating historical consciousness and understanding village governance of the Adivasis in Jharkhand.

The principle of democracy had captured the imagination of Indians during the nationalist struggle for independence as it had the potential to fulfil the demands of each and every section of the country. Ideally, in any democracy, the state has to be democratic in temperament, but when the state arrogates power at the cost of its people, the responsibility to pressurise the government by building public opinion devolves on civil society. Therefore, pressure groups complement the institution of democracy itself (Chandhoke and Priyadarshi 2009: viii). In recent months, this became the major issue in the Adivasi-dominated states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh (mp) and Odisha, born out of the frustration of the Adivasi communities. They believe that their nativity, and close and continuous linkage with the landscape, which are the markers of their collective selfhood, are being threatened in order to sustain the development model of the state. We have witnessed a spate of Adivasi struggles in the colonial and post-independence eras over issues of jal, jungle and jameen (water, forest and land). The modality of protest has been legal and extralegal. Interestingly, they often used their traditional cultural symbols to organise popular movements in defiance of the state and the machinery that imposes it. The Pathalgadi movement in Jharkhand, in this sense, is a reminder of the renewed struggle of the Adivasis to assert their authority over their landscape.

Pathalgadi, the act of erecting stones to mark a happy, sad, or significant occasion is the traditional practice of the Adivasis. This practice is generating debate amongst the Adivasis of central India, scholars, academicians and government agencies. It has helped in polarising Adivasis under the umbrella of a customary practice and has given sheen to the issues of power of the gram sabhas, and assertion of identity. Furthermore, it presents a challenge to the statist idea of governmentality and development that had relegated these issues to the background in the growing political rhetoric of development. No doubt, heightened activities around this issue are occupying the centre stage in India’s tribal-dominated states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, MP and Odisha (Singh 2018).

Interestingly, the debate and struggle revolves around an apparently “humble” stone slab on which Adivasis have inscribed certain provisions of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, and the customary practices interpreted by them in their own way. These stone slabs are erected by the gram sabhas of the villages,1 which purport, on the one hand, to assume powers by drawing legitimacy from the constitutional provisions. On the other hand, they draw on the customary practice of parha panchayat2 (traditional panchayats of the Adivasis of Chota Nagpur) to assign more power to the mankis (head of parha) and the mundas3 (head of the village) (Roy 1912: 117–12). The article is based on the historical understanding of Adivasi village governance in Jharkhand, drawing on my fieldwork and interviews of the villagers of Bhandra, Jilinga, Kurunga and Phutkal Toli in Khunti district—which were the principal centres of the movement—between November 2017 and March 2018. I also closely tracked the changing course of the movement through the media reports in local and national dailies.

Multifaceted Movement

The Pathalgadi movement has emerged as a movement that is political, ethnic and ecological, often assuming a contumacious and adversarial stance to the government’s authority and agenda of “development.” At the same time, this is in contention with the official policy, of treating the grass-roots movements as mere law and order issues. The protagonists argue that the movement upholds a customary practice and conforms with their indigenous manki–munda or parha-panchayat system. Additionally, they invoke an unconfirmed agreement they had with the British, as an alternate mode of drawing legitimacy. In sum, appropriation of the past tends therefore to be central to the movement, claiming that the prohibitions imposed on the entry of the “outsiders” and making gram sabhas the supreme authority, in fact, responds to a reinvented indigenous system of village governance, which had historically been the traditional governors of the resources. Associated with this was the memory of an imagined golden period where there was no fear of dispossession or alienation from their ancestral land or negation of their ideologies of governance and development (Sen 2018: 81; Areeparampil 2002: 7).

This article seeks to capture the multi-faceted movement in contemporary Jharkhand. Since use of Adivasi tradition and history has been a tool to assert rights and pose the reinvented traditional institution as an efficacious model of village governance, the article presents an overview of how it has developed through precolonial times to the lived present. The article also discusses the various factors behind the origin of the movement. It then unfolds its many different facets, the close linkages of the Adivasis with ecology and landscape and the role of the movement in fostering Adivasi subnationalism in India. Since the movement seriously questions the very notion of governmentality at the state and national levels and the capitalist form of development, the concluding section grapples with the responses of the mainstream to the movement.

Village Governance

History is a lesson for the present, and attempts to dissociate and distance from it may have repercussions. Therefore, in order to understand the true nature of the movement we need to take a close look at the changing concept of village governance in Jharkhand over the years. The Munda community of the Chota Nagpur plateau region, who first reclaimed the virgin forests of Jharkhand (Roy 1912: Chapter 3), initially had no idea of individual ownership of landed property. Each family had its own clearances, which came to be called hatu (village) and later, khuntkatti hatu (village of the family of original settlers) (Hallett 1917: 22–23). The dominant idea of Adivasi polity was of a pre-state village republic, which, for centuries remained in a rudimentary state due to material backwardness (Sen 2018: 83). The whole village initially acknowledged the chiefship of the munda in matters temporal as well as spiritual (Tirkey 2002: 39). They grouped themselves into a wider brotherhood of villages termed parha or patti and laid the foundation of a supra-village, pre-state, tribal polity. The strongest and most influential of the Mundas became the manki of the patti. The village was governed by the traditional panchayat which was composed of Mundas and the Pahan (religious head) and village elders. This was a sacred institution as evidenced by the famous Munda saying: Simare Sing-bonga otere Panch (Sing-bonga [the sun God] on high and the Panch on earth) (Roy 1970: 66). Later, when the Oraons entered this area and built their settlements in the Munda homeland, they adopted this form of village governance, which came to be known as the parha-panchayat system of village and supra-village governance (Hallett 1917: 22–24; Tirkey 2002: 40–41). This institution of governance settled disputes more or less amicably and maintained law and order within the village and parha.

The autonomy of the original parha-panchayat system was considerably eroded after the advent of the feudal rule of the Chota Nagpur rajas in the plateau region and different local chiefdoms in Singhbhum (Sen 2018: 114). The patti or parha-panchayat system survived, but became subservient to the new structure (Tirkey 2002: 44). During the British rule, the pir-parha system was amalgamated into the Raj framework and persons associated with village governance were converted into state officials. The process of land alienation and forceful payment of rent intensified at an unprecedented pace. The communities not only lost their rights over the forest, but a new set of intermediaries were imposed on the tribal areas (Sharan 2005: 4443). This led to widespread protests and such Adivasi insurrections as the Kol Insurrection, Bhumij Revolt, Santhal Hul and Birsaite movement. These pressurised the administration to pass a legislation which recognised the rights of the Adivasis through survey and settlement operations. The British passed laws such as the Santhal Parganas Act, 1855, the Santhal Parganas Settlement Regulation, 1872, and the Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 (CNTA), to safeguard the rights of tribals over their landscape (Sen 2015: 22). This, in a way, doubly armed the Adivasis. When laying a certain claim, individual or collective, during colonial and postcolonial eras, they sought legitimacy from both their customs and the colonial acts. We shall later see that this double deployment became an important strategy of Adivasi assertion.

Inception of the Movement

Movements defying the authority of the state and setting up of autonomous zones have not been new in the Scheduled Areas of India. The Pathalgadi movement appears to refurbish Adivasi tradition of similar social protest. Grounds for the Pathalgadi movement were laid when the Jharkhand government organised a global investors’ summit titled “Momentum Jharkhand” in Ranchi on 16–17 February 2017. Replenishing the colonial tradition, it aimed at making the state a hub for investments in mining and industries and a number of memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed (Mukherjee 2017). Raghubar Das, the chief minister of Jharkhand claimed that, “MOUs worth ₹ 3 lakh crore was signed during the Momentum Jharkhand meet. Out of which, proposals worth ₹ 700 crore have already been implemented on the ground” (Daily Pioneer 2017). Most of the investments were in the mining sector and companies such as Usha Martin Group, RSB Group, Tata Steel Growth Shop (TGS) and others showed interest. The government started a “land bank” policy in which it included thousands of acres of non-cultivable land, to be given away to the companies for “development purposes” (Parashar and Toppo 2018). Already plagued by a long history of land alienation and displacement, these announcements alarmed the Adivasis who feared they would be victimised and their lands taken away to promote these activities. This was the immediate trigger for the Pathalgadi movement. In a small non-descript village named Bhandra of Khunti district in Jharkhand, a stone slab was erected on the boundary of the village on 9 March 2017 (Hindustan 2018a). Initially, the Khunti district of Jharkhand was the stronghold of the movement which later spread to neighbouring districts of Latehar and Singhbhum, and the areas of Jashpur in Chhattisgarh (Goswami 2018). On the stone slab was inscribed the order given by the gram sabha for implementing certain provisions (elaborated below) of the Fifth Schedule. Significantly, the slab recorded a similar order by the gram sabha imposing restrictions on the entry of outsiders which included police, government officials, medical staff and strangers. This way, the traditional cultural practice of “Pathalgadi” was employed with political motives, first, drawing legitimacy from the Constitution and second, on its facade declaring their landscape as an autonomous zone.

The stone slab on the boundary of Bhandra village and later on in several villages of the district—Kanki, Kochang, Jilinga, Udburu and others—contained constitutional provisions such as Article 13(3)(a), Article 19(5)(6), Article 244(1) part(b) Para (5)(1) of the Fifth Schedule. Apparently, they were conflating Adivasi custom, symbolised by the erection of a vertical piece of stone as done in sasandiri (sepulchural stones erected at places where the dead people rest), with the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution inscribed on it. However, there are deeper meanings and issues, shaping the entire gamut of the movement. An attempt has been made to unfold its many facets and understand the dimensional shift that occurred recently.

Adivasis in Jharkhand have been greatly alarmed in recent decades by the steady influx of the outsiders and their growing influence in the state politics. According to 2011 Census, constituting only 26.2% of the total population, they have been reduced into a minority in the “Adivasi state,” where they preponderated before. In this backdrop, their fear that investments would attract more outsiders and further marginalise them is neither unfounded nor baseless. Nandini Sundar (2005) has evocatively argued that major political parties often play a cynical role in development politics. They encourage immigration by attracting capitalists with pro-industrial, pro-trader policies, and then use the relative decline in the percentage of Adivasis to justify de-scheduling. The same process is happening in Bastar and other Adivasi areas.

Powers of the Gram Sabha

Another facet of the movement is the assertion of the power of the gram sabha through the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) (GoI 2010). Passed by Parliament on 24 December 1996, the act empowers the gram sabhas with command over natural resources in the village, including the minor minerals, waterbodies, and minor forest produce, as well as extends to it the power to control moneylending. No mining lease can be granted without the prior recommendation of the gram sabha (Sundar 2005: 4432). Furthermore, the act stipulates that the legislation on the panchayats in the Fifth Schedule Areas shall be in conformity with the customary laws, social and religious practices, and traditional management practice of community resources. It also makes prior consultation with the gram sabha mandatory before any acquisition of land in the village, and resettlement and rehabilitation of the project-affected persons in the village.4

On the basis of these provisions, Jharkhand passed the Jharkhand Panchayati Raj Act (JPRA), 2001. The act was amended in 2010 with the provision of election of the members constituting the gram sabha incorporated into it (GoI 2010). On the basis of this act, panchayat elections were held in Jharkhand in 2010 and 2015, and gram panchayats were formed.

The mechanism of village governance has been strengthened by the new acts, through the extension of powers and jurisdictions previously not enjoyed by the village panchayats during precolonial and colonial times. But unfortunately, the JPRA did not contain any provision of consulting the gram sabha before acquisition of the land. This defeated the avowed intention of these acts to ensure the “protection” and “upliftment” of disadvantaged Adivasis. Naturally, therefore, they became suspicious of the ideology of government-sponsored “development” through the promotion of large industries, mineral exploitation, large dams, irrigation and power projects which invariably causes land alienation and displacement of the Adivasis from their soil. Unfortunately, in most of the cases, instead of being beneficiaries, poor and powerless Adivasi and marginal communities have been converted into hapless victims of “development” (Xaxa 2010).

A significant fact, however, is that the present Pathalgadi movement tends to empower the gram sabha through the PESA (Hindustan 2018b). The argument seems to be that the PESA upholds the rights of gram sabhas in Scheduled Areas to frame legislations, in conformity with the customary law, social and religious practices and traditional management practice of the community resources. Understandably, the strategy of the protagonists of the movement has been to invoke the letters of the Constitution as legal evidences of empowerment and claim the empowered gram sabha as the rightful institution to govern villages and their resources. However, what is interesting is the act of manipulation through purposeful interpretation of the provisions to claim autonomy for the gram sabha and flaunt gram sabha-administered villages as zones of autonomy.

Another facet of the movement is the promotion of indigenous models of education, opening of indigenous banks, negation of the authority of the state and declaration of solidarity with the pan-India Adivasi movements. In the wake, they have opened schools managed by the gram sabha that teach defiance of government, even while teaching the alphabet to children of the village (Dainik Bhaskar 2018a). They have also opened banks with much fanfare, and assert that Adivasis are trying to create a parallel economy in defiance of the economy run and regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (Mishra 2018). They encourage Adivasis to open accounts in these banks and assume that all the funds of central government for tribal welfare would be used as working capital for these banks. They reclaim gair mazrua (government) land for this purpose. Interestingly, their half-baked schemes are based on availability of funds from the central government.

State Government’s Response

The state government initially seemed to be caught in a dilemma on how to respond to the movement. The failure to identify the main motive and forces behind the movement is visible in the diverse responses to it. First, as the movement grew and people in the villages of Khunti joined the movement, government agencies ascribed the real motive of the leaders of the movement to the lure of economic benefits rather than the welfare of Adivasis. In support, the state administration pointed to the vast stretches of land within the Pathalgadi area used for opium cultivation.5 It is estimated that opium is cultivated in 2,700 acres of land in Jharkhand, of which 1,500 acres, that is, almost 58% of the total area, falls in the Khunti district alone (Dainik Bhaskar 2018b).6 The opium produced is allegedly transported to Punjab, Chennai, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of India. The administration argues that this was the main reason for building the movement, and that its leaders are invoking tradition as a shield, while propagating the idea of complete autonomy to the villages to restrict the surveillance of the police and law enforcement agencies. This classified the movement as a law and order issue. The leaders of the movement like Krishna Hansda, Vijay Kujur, Jyoti Lal Besera, and Shaktapado Hansda were arrested and booked under secession laws.

Second, the ruling party of Jharkhand characterised the movement as a conspiracy of the Christian missionaries to destabilise the “pro-Hindu” government (Sisodiya 2018). Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders such as Kariya Munda, Laxman Gilua and others blamed Christian missionaries for inciting the Adivasis. Two priests (pastors) were arrested from Murhu in Khunti for instigating Adivasis to practise Pathalgadi (Dainik Bhaskar 2018c). Protagonists of the movement visualised it as a ploy to divide Adivasis on religious lines and brushed aside these allegations by claiming ethnic similarities between Adivasis of all religions. Meanwhile, the church administration has taken a defensive posture and is found hesitant to openly discuss this volatile issue.

Last, accusations have also been officially made that in the garb of Pathalgadi, there is an attempt to declare Kolhan (East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum and Seraikela Kharsawan districts forming the present Kolhan division and not Kolhan of the earlier days) a separate state. According to media reports, Raghubar Das declared that there are “invisible forces” that are instigating the Adivasis to lead a secessionist movement (Hindustan 2018c). But the Adivasi organisations such as Desh Pargana Mahal and Adivasi Mahasabha contend that the movement aimed at diffusion of awareness amongst Adivasis about the rights that have been misinterpreted by the government. It cannot, however, be denied that separatist movements of different genres have also become active in these days of heightened Adivasi activities in the state. On 18 December 2017, in the Bhoya village of Khuntpani in West Singhbhum, some people tried to declare Kolhan as a separate state and hoist their own flag. Such attempts have also been made by one Rama Birua and later, by Gurucharan Haiburu and his supporters (Hindustan 2018d).

Movement on the Ground

The act of Pathalgadi is carried out in a ceremonious fashion in which the entire village participates. The meetings organised by the traditional gram sabhas are well-attended by the Adivasis and attract 1,500 to 5,000 Adivasis. Meetings are attended in traditional attire with bows and arrows in traditional as well as modern avatars.7 Interestingly, the bow–arrow still continues to be flaunted even during other mass protest meetings and rallies to symbolically demonstrate and also to revive their unassailable link with traditional weaponry in fond reminiscence of their historic militancy. Even though women are not accorded any position in the traditional gram sabha, they participate with weapons and traditional red-bordered white saris. The pahan (priest) performs rituals and men and women dance to the tune of the mandar (drum) followed by a sumptuous feast of rice and meat, and listen to addresses by the leaders of Adivasi Mahasabha (Dainik Bhaskar 2018d).

The Adivasi symbolism that determines their close linkage with ecology and landscape are displayed. The stones that are erected on the occasion of the Pathalgadi ceremony are quite different from the traditional one. They are painted in green and carry messages in white, apparently to demonstrate their close association with their green landscape. They carry message of the gram sabha imposing prohibitions on the entry of “outsiders,” which denotes non-residents of the village, including government officials, teachers, medical personnel, land survey officials, security personnel and others. The movement was highlighted after 25 policemen were taken hostage by the villagers of Kanki in Khunti district on 21 February 2018 for trespassing in their area without prior permission of the gram sabha and arresting the gram pradhan (village headman). This has become a major modality of protest since the inception of the movement (Dainik Bhaskar 2018e).8

Growth of Subnationalism

The assertion of Adivasis over landscape and identity is not new, nor are stone slabs being erected for the first time in Adivasi regions in India to assert power. Interestingly, the Jan Chetna Sansthan (JCS) spearheaded the Gaon Ganrajya (village republic) movement in Rajasthan in the 1990s. The movement started in Rajasthan in 1997, in the wake of the enactment of the PESA Act to draw maximum benefits from the provisions of this act. The JCS had initiated long-term work on “tribal self rule” in south Rajasthan through Adivasi assertion for basic rights through the use of provisions under the PESA Act. The organisation felt that to avail of the powers of PESA, Gaon Ganrajya should be formally announced, that is, the villages should declare themselves as republics whereby the development or other works in a village would be decided by the villagers. The Gaon Ganrajya movement was based in the Fifth Schedule Areas of Rajasthan, namely, Banswara, Dungarpur, Chittorgarh, Sirohi and Udaipur. The movement guided by the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Aastha and the JCS, started declaring villages as republics by erecting stone slabs called silalekha on the boundary of the village by inscribing the provisions of the PESA Act on them. The movement was active till 2009 when, the Gaon Ganrajya Sammelan (Abu Road) was held and around 3,500 tribals from 60 villages of Abu Road congregated at Akra Bhatta to show their solidarity for the establishment of village republics (Venkatraman 2010:19). Similar attempts were undertaken by B D Sharma in 1997, when stone slabs were erected with the powers of the gram sabhas inscribed on them, in the light of the PESA Act (Hindustan 2018e).

Interestingly, the leaders of the Pathalgadi movement also claim that the movement affiliates to the sati-pati movement, which attempts to create Adivasi nationalism in India. This movement is headquartered in Katasvan village of the Tapi district in Gujarat. It was founded by Dada Kunwar Keshari Singh in 1930 and the movement adheres to its principal belief that disregards the authority of the Government of India. The Adivasi Mahasabha, which is the main exponent of the Pathalgadi movement, is guided by its principles and is active in Jharkhand, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan. The organisations that are affiliated to it are Adivasi Pariwar Rajasthan, Bhil Autonomous Council, Birsa Brigade Madhya Pradesh, Sarv Adivasi Samaj Chhattisgarh, Manjhi Pargana Mahal East Singhbhum and others (Hindustan 2018f).

Scholars such as Nandini Sundar, Alpa Shah, Ajay Gudavarthy and others blame the state and its functionaries for the profound grievances amongst the Adivasis. According to them, Naxalism is only a manifestation of failure of governance in the Adivasi populated areas of eastern and central India (Sundar 2005; Shah 2007; Gudavarthy 2013). In this light the Pathalgadi is another manifestation of the disenchantment of the Adivasis with the state.

Rationalisation of Responses

Obviously, the politics of the state has been oscillating between the protagonists and antagonists of the Pathalgadi movement in the past few months. Yet, we cannot deny that the growing popularity of the movement reveals that the manner in which these laws are defined by the leaders of the movement has generated hopes in the hearts of Adivasis, regarding protection of their land and authority.

The state has seen assertion of the Adivasi identity in many forms in the past few months. There is continuous agitation amongst the Kurmis, a sizeable demographic group of Jharkhand, who wish to be classified as Scheduled Tribes (ST) and their proposal is supported by a large number of members of Parliament and members of the state legislative assembly across political outfits (Hindustan 2018g). The Ghatwar–Ghatwals tribes who were classified as Adivasis until 1952 are struggling to be included in the ST list. This has forced the state government to agree to conduct a socio-economic survey to look into the demand (Dainik Bhaskar 2018b). These events have generated a fear amongst the Adivasis that there is a planned attempt at the dilution of their special status and constitutional privileges. The fear of deprivation is further aggravated by the national debate over reservation and the politics following it (Hindustan 2018h). Nandini Sundar (2005: 4433) argues that the reluctance of the formal legal and political system to protect the lives and resources of the Adivasis, which includes their land, has prompted many social groups to view adherence to their “custom” as their only recourse.

Adivasi leaders and activists as Gladson Dungdung, Philip Kujur, Srinivas and environmentalists such as Nitish Priyadarshi, Shasi Shankar and others are organising photo exhibitions of remote areas of Jharkhand where unabated mining and related activities have devastated the region and are responsible for the deplorable condition of the Adivasis there. The ground realities differ from the descriptions of the state. Vast reserves of forest are cut down and illegal mining, which according to media reports is carried out with the connivance of the state, has devastated the ecology and the landscape of the region.

The spread of the movement to the tribal states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and MP has been used as a tool to target the government for the failure of its policies (Hindustan 2018i). This has forced the government to somewhat soften its stance towards the movement and adopt the counter-strategy of engaging the gram sabhas in discussion. The Governor of Jharkhand, Draupadi Murmu called a special meeting of the gram pradhans, manki munda and parha rajas on 3 April 2018 to discuss the contentious issues in the Scheduled Areas of the state (Hindustan 2018j). She honoured them by presenting them with shawls and pugries (turban). She also tried to placate them by drawing attention to her own status of being the daughter and granddaughter of a gram pradhan (Hindustan 2018k)10 reiterating her awareness of the social set-up of the Adivasis as an Adivasi herself. In the same breath, a caution was extended to them to strictly situate their demands within the framework of the Constitution. This perhaps shows that the government is conscious of the sensitiveness of the issue of the governance of the Scheduled Areas, customary rights of the Adivasis and the conflict over the ideology of development that has reflected during the course of the movement.

Conclusions

The Pathalgadi movement, with its many faces, is oscillating between two extreme positions. First, that of the government which is trying to assert its authority, and second, of the Adivasis who lay claim to complete control over their landscape. The Adivasis in the villages appear oblivious to the nuances of the present politics, but they continue to repose a deep faith in their customary practices and traditional systems. Understandably, the fear of displacement and the yearning to have complete control over their resources prompt them to support this movement. But the reality is that they appear conflicted. They may either stay within the framework of democratic norms or repose their faith in their customs and tradition. They may continue their struggle in a democratic fashion, a practice that is less credible amongst the Adivasis, or tread an uncertain path of armed resistance on which the failure of Naxalism in Adivasi areas has put a big question mark.

Yet, Pathalgadi promises Adivasis the best of both the worlds. Although there might be vested interests behind the movement, the mass support it claims to enjoy is largely due to the promises it upholds, that is, abua disum, abua raj (our village, our governance).

Notes

1 These gram sabhas claim to be prakritik and rurhi panchayats (natural and traditional village assemblies) and claim to derive authority from the traditional parha panchayat and manki–munda system that was prevalent in this area since ancient periods. Interestingly, although the gram sabha claims to be a traditional institution, it highlights those provisions of the Indian Constitution that state that the tradition and customs of the Adivasis in the Scheduled Areas would be the real source of power for the gram sabha.

2 The parha-panchayat system is a unit of ancient Munda polity and what has emerged out of it ever since is the partakes of this system of village administration.

3 Munda is considered to be the secular head of the village of the Munda tribe and is responsible for the village administration. Manki on the other hand is the head of the patti which normally constitutes of 12 villages. The Pathalgadi movement in Jharkhand is strong among the Mundas and the Ho Adivasis, who are of Kolarian origin.

4 The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, No 40 of 1996 (24 December 1996).

5 As reported by Goswami (2018), the Adivasi Mahasabha and its supporters countered this attack by claiming that the illegal opium trade in the state has been practised since a decade when Naxalism was a strong force in the area, while the movement has started only since a year.

6 It is estimated that almost 30–40 kilogram (kg) of opium are produced from an acre of land. Each kg of opium is sold in the international market for around ₹ 1,040,000.

7 Dainik Bhaskar, Ranchi, 26 February 2018, p 1.

8 On 21 February 2018, 25 policemen were detained by the gram sabha of Kurunga village in the Khunti district of Jharkhand for trespassing in their area. Since then, arrest of leaders of the movement and gram pradhans has resulted in gherao (siege) of police stations, stopping armed policemen for questioning for trespassing in their area and holding policemen hostage for releasing persons arrested on the charges of Pathalgadi which has become a regular feature. On 23 May 2018, villagers of Baruhatu of Khunti held an anti-landmine vehicle and eight policemen hostage in return for the release of Durga Munda who was associated with the Pathalgadi movement.

9 According to the 2011 Census, the literacy rate of India is 73% but for STs it is 59%.

References

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— (2018b): “Ab Arki ke paanh gaaon main pathagadi sarkar se kaha ... ve apni had main rahen,” Ranchi, 16 March.

— (2018c): “Pathagdi ke liye bharkane main 2 padri samet 29 par case,” Ranchi, 10 April.

— (2018d): “Pathalgadi ki aar main hungama: sarkar aur rajneeti dal bhi bhramit,” Ranchi,
25 February.

— (2018e): Khunti main gramino main phir 8 police jawano ko 4 ghante bandhak banaya,” Ranchi, 24 May.

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— (2018b): “Jhakhand main poori tarah laagoo nahi hai ‘PESA,’” Supplement, Ranchi, 25 February.

(2018c): “Pathalgadi samarthakon ne khunti mein Bijli Tower ka nirman Roka,” Ranchi,
25 May.

— (2018d): “Adivasi mahasabha gaaon main Pathalgadi rokne ko taiyar,” Ranchi, 28 February.

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Updated On : 18th Mar, 2019

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