Self-rule ritual in Kolhan biz district

The stone put up at Patradih, as part of pathalgadi, on Tuesday. Telegraph picture

Jamshedpur: Pathalgadi, an ancient tribal ritual to honour forefathers by installing boulders and recently hijacked by secessionists, spread from Khunti to the industrial belt of Seraikela-Kharsawan on Tuesday as over 400 people from six villages in Kuchai block, only 150km from the steel city, performed a lavish ceremony to declare their areas out of bounds for outsiders, including the police and administration.

The main venue of the pathalgadi was Patradih, some 125km from the district's auto ancillary hub Adityapur, but bordering Khunti. Tribals, including a large number of women and children, from smaller villages nearby such as Siadih, Nuadih, Bursupiri, Pidgiri and Tiruldih flocked to the ceremony and pledged to impose self-rule through gram sabhas in their respective areas.

Self-appointed pathalgadi leader Joseph Purty, who has earned notoriety for spearheading the protest in Khunti, led villagers, most of whom with traditional weapons.

The 400-plus crowd at Patradih cheered when the 12-feet-tall stone boulder, significantly with the national emblem on its head and inscriptions on gram sabha, was mounted. A puja followed the installation. Once rituals were over, in his speech, Purty asked the gathering to follow only the gram sabha. He said no other constitutional body such as the Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha was needed.

Seraikela-Kharsawan SP Chandan Sinha confirmed the pathalgadi.

"Joseph Purty is leading villagers," Sinha told The Telegraph. "We are aware that Purty raised objectionable slogans. He will be arrested as early as possible."

BJP MP Karia Munda, who had stressed pathalgadi in its pristine form was a fundamental tribal right but in its secessionist avatar unconstitutional and illegal, said on Tuesday evening that his stand was the same. JMM MLA Dashrath Gagrai said he was aware of Tuesday's pathalgadi but would be in a position to comment after personally visiting the areas.

Khunti has been at the forefront of pathalgadi protests that began sometime in the end of last year. Stone slabs began cropping up since December 2017, but the biggest pathalgadi was held on February 25 this year when 5,000 tribals gathered at Naxalite-hit Kochang village, strategically close to the triangle of Chaibasa (West Singhbhum), Seraikela-Kharsawan and Ranchi.


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