The blueprint of the act was prepared by John Hoffmann, a missionary social worker. Its operation is effective in North Chotanagpur, South Chotanagpur and Palamau divisions, including areas under various municipalities and notified area committees. However, a tribal may transfer his land through sale, exchange, gift or will to a fellow Scheduled Tribe member and residents of his own police station area. Similarly, SCs and BCs can transfer land to members of their own community within the limits of the district in which the land is located with prior permission of the deputy commissioner.
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Fifty kilometers from Ranchi, the narrow road connecting the Jharkhand capital to nearby villages suddenly becomes wide and well-paved for a short distance. Birsa Munda, an Adivasi peasant organised a powerful rebellion against the British in the s. He is revered in Jharkhand as Bhagwan Birsa, and several state institutions and public buildings are named after him. A little past the Birsa Complex in Ulihatu, though, the well-paved road tapers off and then and completely disappears before it can reach the villages in the vicinity.
Most of the Munda Adivasi people here still live in mud houses, gather minor produce from the forest, and practise subsistence farming. On October 23, the village lost one of its elders, Abhram Mundu, in police firing.
Birsa Munda, who led the Adivasi rebellion, died in prison in at the age of But in a direct concession to the demands of the Munda rebellion, the British were forced to enact the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act in , conferring special protections on the land of small cultivators.
Adivasis living in the Chotanagpur plateau — predominantly Mundas and Oraons — say the law has been crucial in safeguarding their land rights even in post-Independence India, and they oppose the proposed amendments to the Act. But the police stopped us at Saiko, 40 km from Ranchi, and would not let us go further saying they had imposed Section This section of the Criminal Procedure Code empowers a magistrate to prohibit the assembly of more than four people in an area.
As anger rose in the crowd, a few men holding a rope encircled the policemen, asserting that if the police did not let them go, they too would not let the policemen leave. The police shot 11 rounds of bullets into the crowd.
Abhram Mundu was fatally hit in the back, and three other farmers were injured. Though, in their defence, the police claim that the firing was necessary, no injuries or deaths were recorded among security personnel.
We carry these routinely even when we take the cattle to the forest to graze. Then, why did the police kill him? Both laws restrict the sale and transfer of Adivasi land to non-Adivasis. The first amendment to Section 21 of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Section 13 of the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act removes restrictions on the use of Adivasi land by owners or tenants for non-agricultural purposes.
The amendments retain Section 71B of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act that makes the violations of its provisions a criminal offence. Experts say the first amendment, which permits a change in the purpose of land from agricultural to non-agricultural, will make the protection of Adivasi lands under the two laws ineffective, and will open the floodgates for the alienation transfer of the ownership of property rights of such land.
At present, the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act allows the transfer of land without the written permission of the Deputy Commissioner only for two purposes — industry and mining — which was brought about by an amendment in the law in Critics say this will open the door for commercially-run privately-owned hospitals and colleges to enter the area.
But the government is removing the gram sabha, and undermining the Constitution. The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, in a meeting in August recorded that the amendments omit crucial provisions of taking the consent of gram sabhas, and involving them in decision-making when land is transferred for developmental activities in Scheduled Areas.
Jharkhand is also set to host Momentum Jharkhand, its maiden overseas investment promotion summit on February 16 and A land-bank consisting of 20 lakh acres will also be announced at the summit.
Revenue officials say this largely consists of gair mazurwa land common lands, including pastures and hills in villages. On December 29, two months after Abhram Mundu was killed in police firing, when chief minister Das arrived in a helicopter to inaugurate an electrical substation in Angrabadi, in Torpa, in Khunti district, hundreds of residents displayed black flags to protest against his government.
Shoes were hurled at Das in Saraikela-Kharsawan district when he tried to pay homage to Adivasis who had died in police firing there in Bhengra showed this reporter the gram sabha resolution in which 84 of households in the village said they opposed the project.
The residents had submitted Section 8 of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act to the officials who had visited the village. Meanwhile the Khunti police has mentioned the name of Durgavati Oraon, who heads the Kendriya Sarna Samiti in Khunti, in a First Information Report filed in connection with the October 23 firing incident.
Because Adivasi are not formally literate, they will not get anything from this. They have also announced a protest in New Delhi on March 5. Manob Chowdhury Fifty kilometers from Ranchi, the narrow road connecting the Jharkhand capital to nearby villages suddenly becomes wide and well-paved for a short distance.
The road that leads to Ulihatu, Birsa Munda's birthplace has been recently paved. Photo credit: Anumeha Yadav Adivasis living in the Chotanagpur plateau — predominantly Mundas and Oraons — say the law has been crucial in safeguarding their land rights even in post-Independence India, and they oppose the proposed amendments to the Act.
Chotanagpur Tenancy Act: What next
In Jharkhand, Adivasis say changes to tenancy laws dilute their hard-won land rights