New Delhi: In a major development, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren on Sunday withdrew all cases against those booked for sedition in the Pathalgadi movement by the erstwhile BJP government under Raghubar Das. This was the very first decision of the new state government, taken mere hours after its swearing-in earlier in the day.
Three ministers of the coalition Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-Congress-Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) government, including Chief Minister Hemant Soren of the JMM, took oath today. The other two MLAs to take oath along with the Chief Minister were Congress’s Rameshwar Oraon and RJD’s Satyananda Bhogta.
The Pathalgadi movement began in 2017-2018, when giant plaques were erected in the state’s Khunti district, declaring the gram sabha as its only sovereign authority. These had inscriptions from the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act or PESA, which the tribals invoked to claim ‘independence’ from the state government and assert their rights and culture.
While the movement eventually fizzled out, the villagers accused the police of ‘brutality’ as well as ‘state repression.’ A total of 19 sedition cases were filed against 172 people, with the police seeking permission to prosecute 96 individuals.
The JMM-Congress-RJD government, collectively called ‘Mahagathbandhan,’ came to power by winning 47 seats in the 81-seat Assembly, thus easily crossing the majority mark of 42, in the recently held five-phase Jharkhand Assembly Election. Hemant Soren, who took oath as the Chief Minister for a second time, is also the 11th Chief Minister of Jharkhand.
The BJP won just 25 seats, despite being the only government in the 19-year-old state to complete a full term. Raghubar Das couldn’t even save his own constituency of Jamshedpur East, losing to BJP rebel Saryu Rai.