Cover Story: Manipulating Monoliths
         Date: 17-May-2018
The traditional practice of Patthargarhi is being misused by the Church-Naxal extremism in Scheduled Tribe areas with the clear objective of inciting people against the state, destabilising harmony in the society, continuing illegal activities and finally inciting hatred in view of the forthcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha polls to be held in 2019
 
 
 

Patthargarhi is a sacred cultural tradition of Scheduled Tribes (STs) being practised for centuries. But now it is being misused as a weapon by the Church-Naxal gang to incite the gullible STs against the state and to ban the entry of non-STs in their villages. Such incidents have been reported from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. But there are reports that, if not curbed sternly forthwith, it may emerge from some other states also where there is sizeable population of STs.
 
The latest incident of Patthargarhi was noticed on April 22 in Jashpur District of Chhattisgarh bordering Jharkhand. A section of the STs installed stone pillars at Batunga, Bachhranv and Sihardand villages under Bagich Development Block misinterpreting some sections of the Indian Constitution. They claimed that “neither Lok Sabha nor Vidhan Sabha, but their Gram Sabha is supreme” and the entry of non-STs, including MPs, MLAs, government officials, police, etc is completely prohibited. Such activities were also reported from Sarguja and Bastar Districts.
 

 
Taking prompt action, the Chhattisgarh police arrested eight persons including a retired IAS officer Herman Kindo (64) and retired ONGC official Joseph Tigga on April 30. They were sent to judicial custody. Both these officials are said to be working with the Christian Missionaries after their retirements and have been involved in Patthargarhi drive in Jharkhand and Odisha also. Three cases have been registered against them at Bagicha Police Station under Sections 120B, 147, 149, 186, 332, 341, 353 and 427 for inciting the Vanvasis. A case was registered in Narayanpur Police Station under sections 149, 155B, 505(1)(c) and 120B.

 

What is Patthargarhi?

The word ‘Patthargarhi’ has been copied from the original word ‘Hargarhi’ which is very common among the STs. ‘Pattargarhi’ is used in mainly three circumstances.

First, it is used to list the names of the family members during ‘shradh’ after death. The Sanatani Hindus perform ‘pindadan’ of their ancestors in Gaya or Haridwar, but the Munda STs perform ‘shradh’ of their pitras as per this tradition. It is done with full culturalfanfare—dancing, beating drums etc. Their entire lineage is written on a pillar.

The second use of Patthargarhi is during unjustifiable marriages, especially when one marries within the same gotra. When someone does it, he is ousted from the village and a stone pillar is installed outside the village mentioning that this person eloped with the particular person and insulted the community, hence his entry is prohibited in the village.

Third use is for demarcation of land—whether on border of the village, identification of Sarana land, etc.

 

Patthargarhi is not merely an expression of anger by some STs against the administration following some developmental issues, it seems a well-planned conspiracy in which the Church, Naxals, Maoists, opium mafias and some other anti-India elements have come together. Its objective is not just to attract the attention of the national and international media, but to create a serious disturbance in the Scheduled Tribe Districts of the states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, etc which have strong Vanvasi population. The immediate target of the drive seems obviously the Assembly polls due in some states and also the Lok Sabha polls due in 2019.
 
The main brain behind the drive is urban Naxals, who have mobilised support from Christian Missionaries and other likeminded outfits. International support is also there. Surprisingly, the Patthargarhi drive has received unexpected support from the Centre for Science and Environment Director General Sunita Narain, who in Ranchi on May 1, said the drive should be seen in the “right perspective”.
 

Roots in Jharkhand

 

Patthargarhi surfaced in Chhattisgarh on April 22, but it is clandestinely going on in Khunti region of Jharkhand for about two years. A person, Phulman Chaudhary who claims himself as the Asia region head of a church organisation called World Indigenous Forum, is said to be the key man behind it. Phulman is originally said to be a Nepali citizen and has been inciting STs in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh through this drive. He even observed World Indigenous People Day on August 9 last year on large scale in ST regions. Vijay Kujur, who is in jail for the Patthargarhi drive, is also said to be a close associate of Phulman Chaudhary.
 

‘A Conspiracy to Draw Political Mileage’


Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh termed the Patthargarhi movement as a conspiracy hatched to draw political mileage during forthcoming Assembly polls. Talking to media persons at Parsada village in Raigarh district on May 3 he said the activities being carried out in the name of Patthargarhi are unconstitutional. He asked how can someone be stopped endering any village? “It is a conspiracy hatched keeping in view the forthcoming Assembly polls and the forces leading this movement want to promote conversion in the region. Patthargarhi is no issue in the state, as the people are awakened. The rallies being organised by people against Patthargarhi prove it,” he said.

 

200 Districts in the Grip

 

Different theories are being cited behind the beginning of the Patthargarhi movement. Some see it in Chhattisgarh as a reaction to the exclusion of Jashpur District from the list of Left Wing Extremism (LWE) by Union Ministry of Home Affairs. While some call it a joint venture of the naxals and church outfits to create disturbance in the Scheduled Tribe Districts. Some relate it to the Jharkhand Government’s decision to amend the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNTA) and Santhal Paragana Tenancy Act (SPTA) about two years back. These Acts are in practice since the British period restricting transfer of ST land to the non-STs. After Independence both these Acts became part of the Indian Constitution. Due to these Acts even a ST from other district cannot buy land of a ST in other district. Only the ST of the same district can buy the land. The Jharkhand government while amending these Acts declared four times more compensation if it acquires the land of any ST for any developmental project. The Missionaries and Naxals found this amendment as an opportunity to regain support in the tribal regions. They started misguiding STs claiming that the government is going to snatch their lands. In order to mobile support they invented ‘Patthargarhi’. Misinterpreting 5th Scheduled and some other sections of the Constitution they installed stone pillars on borders of the villages. Such pillars have reportedly been installed in about 200 revenue villages of Khunti, Simdega, Gumla and East and West Singhbhum districts.
 
 

Politically Motivated Move: Kariya Munda


The main centre of Patthargarhi is not Jharkhand, but the border areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan where these people have their offices. They manage their activities from that place only. This activity in Jharkhand is not a social, but a political move. It is against the nation. They use different language at different places. When they are with the STs, they use different language and when they are with the literate people in any other area they use different languages. Their objective is to incite the people against the government agencies. This Patthargarhi has nothing to do with the STs, said senior tribal leader and former Dy Speaker of Lok Sabha Shri Kariya Munda.

 

The pro-Patthargarhi elements claim that the British Government transferred power to the Union of India in 1870 on a 99-year lease and that lease had expired in 1969. After 1969, all the decisions affecting the STs have to be approved by the ‘privy council’ of British Empire. The Patthargarhi pillars claim that all identification cards like Aadhaar, voter ID, etc, are anti-ST documents; STs are actually the rulers of this country not the ordinary citizens on whom Indian laws like Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) apply. Article 244 and 19 have also been misinterpreted. They say that the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Area) Act (PESA) has not been implemented properly. The original theory of Patthargarhi is said to have been developed at an Ashram in Kataswan, Gujarat, where a man known as Kunwar Kesri Singh is inciting people.
 

Schools, Fair Price Shops Locked

 

“The rights of the Gram Sabha and the 5th Scheduled are being misinterpreted. Objectionable, provocative, unparliamentary and unconstitutional language has been used to criticise the Government. It is a clear attempt to destablise the harmony of the society and misguide the STs”

— Jagdevram Oraon, President, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram

 

The opposition is not limited to merely banning the entry of outsiders or non-Vanvasis in the village. There are reports that the Patthargarhi elements have locked eight government schools in Khunti District. And what is being taught there now is nothing but hatred. See some examples at a school of Khunti:  “Gha se Ghanti. Ghanti bajane waala brahman budbak hai; Cha se chor--Chacha Nehru choron ka pradhanmantri tha; Ja se Jameen--Sampoorn desh ki jameen adivasiyon ki hai; Ma se Maalik. Adivasi log Bharat desh ke maalik hain; La se Lootera. Loktantra looteron ka tantra hai...Va se Vote. Vote vyavastha Hinduon ki hai”. Both the students and teachers are forced to take these classes. Those who defy these orders are forced to pay Rs 500 per month as punishment. Interestingly, those who are advocating Patthargarhi teach their own children in urban schools of Ranchi. “The people who are now leading this movement teach their children in private schools of Ranchi and some other cities. But they closed the government schools for other children. They are doing it to create a mess so that they can start church schools there,” said a journalist in Ranchi on request of anonymity. Not only this, the fair price shops have been locked and the STs, who get 30 kg ration at Re 1 per kg, are not being allowed to receive the ration. They have declared that no house under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna would be allowed to be constructed.
 
The opium mafia aided by Naxals is also said to have joined hands in this movement. There are reports that opium farming is being done in 10 districts of Jharkhand and it was cultivated at 2700 acres of land last year. In Khunti alone, where the Patthargarhi drive is strong, opium farming was done at 1500 acre land last year. The areas where the outsiders and the narcotic officials cannot reach have not been included in it. Khunti district is known as ‘Afghanistan of opium farming’.
 

Officials Taken Hostage

 

The Panchayat polls conducted in the state some time back are also being misinterpreted. Till now, the decisions in the villages used to be taken by the traditional Panchayat or Roodhivadi leaders. In elections, converted Christians were also elected and now they take decisions. It angered the Sanatani STs. This anger was further fueled by Church outfits. The Hindu STs say the Village Panchayat has to be led by them only and not by the converted Christians. The government agencies initially ignored this opposition. It was noticed only on August 25, 2017 when the SP, DSP, SDM along with their officials, 50 CRPF personnel and 100 policemen were taken hostage for 14 hours at Kanki village under Bhandara Panchayat in Khunti. It happened merely 8 km away from Khunti District headquarters. The police had gone there to arrest a accused. The villagers took them to hostage saying how can they arrest their villager without the permission of village Panchayat. The Patthargarhi supporters are active in Simdega, Gumla, East and West Singbhum, and in the villages around Ranchi also. Now it has crossed borders in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha also.

 

Church Leaders in Lead Role


 

Most of the people who have been arrested in this case so far are converted Christians. The mastermind of the drive is said Vijay Kujur, who is a converted Chrisitan.  He was arrested on March 19, 2018 by Seraikela-Kharsawan Police from Mahipalpur in Delhi  where he was hiding at a relative's home. He has been inciting the STs to boycott all government schemes, but he himself is an employee of the Shipping Corporation of India, a government company. FIRs have been lodged against him under Sections 153A (to create hatred among people on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 504 (intentional insult with intent to breach peace), 506 (criminal intimidation), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 109 (abetment), 114 (abettor present when offence is committed), 117 (abetting offence by more than 10 persons), 186 (obstructing a public servant from duty), 290 (public nuisance) and other relevant sections of the IPC. 
 
Vijay Kujur’s close associate, Babita Belu Kashyap, who is absconding and is underground now, is also said to be a converted Christian. Both Vijay Kujur and Babita are the associates of Phulman Chaudhary. One more key person behind the drive is Joseph Purti who is also known as ‘Professor’ and Yusuf.  He is a Christian Paster. Even though arrest warrants have been issued against him, he is still working in the forests of Arkhi Block where Bhagwan Birsa Munda was born. These church leaders have calculatedly put the Hindu Mundas, the followers of Birsa Munda, against the government.
 
The incidents of Patthargarhi have been reported more from the villages where the population of converted Christian population is higher. Kanki village where the policemen and officials were held hostage, has strong Christian population. The Hindu Mundas of Kanki are not against the government. The church is inciting them. Another fact which needs to be noted is that the areas where Patthargarhi is going on are parts of the region where Bhagwan Birsa Munda was born. The Christians have been trying to convert the Mundas here for many decades, but they could not convert even 10 per cent of the people. However, in other areas they have converted about 20-30 per cent Hindu STs. There are some villages where the church has been trying for 100 years to convert people but could not convert even a single person. Hence, they thought of creating a movement that could generate the feeling of separatism so that they can start their activities safely.

Sadhbhavana Padyatras


 
 
Apart from local administration, the local Hindu STs, under the banner of Sarva Sanatan Adivasi Samaj, have reacted strongly against this anti-national drive and they have declared to remove the Patthargarhi pillars. Terming the movement as a conspiracy, BJP Rajya Sabha MP from Chhattisgarh Shri Ranvijay Singh Judev  alongwith about 10,000 STs organised a Sadbhavana Padyatra at Bachhranv village on April 28 and some pillars installed in the name of Patthargarhi were removed by some STs. Following it some pro-Patthargarhi elements took some policemen and officials hostage for several hours. The opposition Congress in Chhattisgarh is also said to be clandestinely supporting the unconstitutional drive. State Congress president Bhupesh Baghel termed the Patthargarhi as a revolt of STs against the state government.

 

The Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, which has its headquarters in Jashpur, is also trying to educate the people about the church and Naxal conspiracy. “The rights of the Gram Sabha and the 5th Scheduled are being misinterpreted. Objectionable, provocative, unparliamentary and unconstitutional language has been used to criticise the government. It is a clear attempt to destablise the harmony and misguide the STs,” said Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram president Shri Jagdevram Oraon.

The resentment generated in the name of Patthargarhi movement among the STs needs to be addressed in a systematic manner not only in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh but also in all other states where this movement is silently gaining ground. There are confirmed reports that the Church and Naxal outfits are trying to take this drive in all the states where there is ST population. There are some issues of the STs, which should be addressed without delay. There are some minor issues, but long negligence of them deeply hurts. There is tradition of granting land to the village Pujari who is called ‘Paan’ in the local parlance. But at some places, where the Pujaris have been allured to Christianity, there are attempts to build churches on that land.

 

 

The condition of Government schools in Khunti and some other also require immediate attention. There are school buildings, roads, students and even the mid day meals, but there is no teacher. If proper attention is not paid to Government schools now, the condition in coming 10 years may be very explosive in these areas. It is feared that if this church-naxals  nexuswas not dealt seriously now, Jharkhand may go to the Kerala way.