Jharkhand Congress executive president and former Mandar MLA Bandhu Tirkey, along with other party leaders, termed the arrest of Tana Bhagats a conspiracy to pave the way for the “seamless operation” of coal extraction.
Tana Bhagat is a tribal community that follows the Gandhian way of life.
Addressing the media on Wednesday evening at the party state headquarters in Ranchi, Bandhu Tirkey called upon the administration for a proper investigation into the acts of violence done by the Tana Bhagat community members in October 2022 at the Latehar district court premises. Tirkey indicated that coal mining PSUs might have used their agents to incite the Tana Bhagats into resorting to violence.
His statement surprised everyone as the party is part of the ruling alliance in Jharkhand. At the moment, Congress has 17 MLAs, while RJD has one MLA and JMM has 30 MLAs in the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly.
“On October 10 last year in Latehar district, about 400 people, mostly from the Tana Bhagat community, gathered in the district court complex to agitate for the protection of water, forest and land in a peaceful manner. They had staged a dharna. The administration brutally lathi-charged them and around 40 Tana Bhagat leaders were arrested and kept in various districts of the state and cases have been registered against 200 named and 300 unknown accused,” said Tirkey.
“Tana Bhagats have a history of following Gandhian philosophy of non-violence and has never indulged in such violence. What prompted the administration to treat them in such a manner as if they were criminals?” questioned Tirkey.
He alleged: “We have come to know that their peaceful agitation was deliberately taken in the wrong direction under a very well-thought-out conspiracy. A conspiracy has been hatched to put the leaders of the movement in jail, so that work on coal extraction and transportation in Tubair, Banharardi, Chakla and Balumath are carried out without any hurdles.”
“The leaders and community members have been put in jail and the agitation has been silenced. Those who were not at the scene of the incident, their names have also been included in the list of accused. Mining work is being done on a war footing within a week after the arrest,” he alleged.
“There is not a single leader in the Tana Bhagat community and people are shying away from meeting Tana Bhagats in jail. We would want the administration and the state government to probe and find out who were involved in provoking Tana Bhagats. Talks are being held with Congress national leaders in Delhi and soon a delegation will meet President Droupadi Murmu and apprise her of the situation,” said Tirkey.