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Shift signal puts tribals on toes

Ranchi, Sept. 13: Tribal organisations in Jharkhand have threatened a massive agitation in protest against the delimitation exercise underway to redraw Assembly and Lok Sabha segments in the state.

Sensing a move to displace the tribals from their land, the outfits have accused the official machinery of 'manipulating the statistics' for de-notifying scheduled constituencies reserved for tribes.

Though official sources are not certain of the proposed September 24 meeting in Delhi on delimitation, the tribal outfits have begun to organise themselves to launch an 'intensified movement' against such a move.

The Jharkhand Janadhikar Party today threatened to gherao the Raj Bhavan on Thursday in protest against the move. It has also decided to take out a torchlight procession the evening before the Delhi delimitation meeting.

'This is an issue which will trigger tremendous social unrest in the state since the tribals will not tolerate any move to de-notify the reserved seats of the scheduled areas. Strong resentment is brewing among the tribes who have been meted out a raw deal for the last 50 years of Independence by the respective governments at the Centre and the state,' party chief Bandhu Tirkey said this afternoon.

The Janadhikar Party accused a syndicate of officials and politicians of trying to reduce the tribals to a minority in Jharkhand. 'In the name of development, urbanisation and modernisation, the tribals have been forcibly evicted from their lands without compensation. On the other hand, a large number of outsiders have been brought in and settled in the state as a conspiracy to drive away the tribals,' Tirkey said.

He cited the example of prominent townships, including Bokaro, Jamshedpur, Ranchi, Hazaribagh and Dumka, saying these were once inhabited by tribals who have been driven away by settlers. 'There is no trace of tribals in the urban areas and the tribal land forcibly grabbed (now) houses sprawling market complexes,' the party chief said.

The Janadhikar Party also spoke out against the former governors of Bihar and Jharkhand, accusing them of 'being a part of the anti-tribal conspiracy'. The party said as per the provisions of Article 19 (5) D of the Constitution, the settlement of outsiders in large numbers in scheduled areas is restricted to prevent tribals from being reduced to a minority.

The outfit alleged that the governors 'did not perform their constitutional duty' of providing tribals security.

The party said lakhs of outsiders have settled in Jharkhand over the last 25 years, driving away the tribals from their business and property. It added that tribals who had to leave the state can be found in the Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir and down south.

'The government's plea for delimitation of reserved seats is that tribals constitute only 26 per cent of the total population of the state. This is wrong since we have already rejected the census conducted by the government,' Tirkey said.

The tribal outfits had launched a series of protests in 2001 demanding that Sarna be recognised as a separate region. They say that while tribals in Jharkhand have grown in number, the increase is dwarfed by the settlers' growth rate.

The Janadhikar Party has demanded that political outfits claiming to work for the uplift of tribals make their stand on delimitation clear. It has also warned that it could 'go to any extent' to protect the rights of tribals.

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