A prominent Adivasi activist and professor at the Government School and College for Women in the village of Sakchi in Jharkhand’s Jamshedpur district has been arrested for writing a Facebook post defending his community’s right to eat beef, HuffPost India reported on Sunday.
Jeetrai Hansda was arrested the day before on the basis of a complaint filed against him in June 2017, allegedly by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s student wing Akhil Bharati Vidyarthi Parishad. An unidentified lawyer handling Hansda’s case told the news website he suspects the arrest was made two years after the complaint was lodged because the Bharatiya Janata Party did not want to anger Adivasi communities before the General Elections. The saffron party kept up its dominance in the state in the elections, winning 12 of 14 Lok Sabha seats.
According to the first information report lodged at the Sakchi police station, Hansda wrote a Facebook post in 2017 in which he spoke of Adivasi communities’ tradition of eating beef and conducting ceremonial cow sacrifice. He also wrote that it was Adviasis’ democratic and cultural right to consume beef, and mentioned unwillingness to follow Hindu customs. He also pointed out that Adivasis eat peacocks, India’s national bird.
Hansda’s lawyer said that he had been asked to appear at the police station in 2017 but was not arrested. The professor’s application for anticipatory bail was also rejected. According to HuffPost India, Hansda has been charged with sections of the Indian Penal Code that deal with insults to religious feelings and attempts to promote enmity between groups of people.
Meanwhile, the leader of an organisation that works for the preservation of Adivasi traditions said that in 2017 he had urged the vice chancellor of Kolhan University, which runs the government college in Sakchi, not to expel the professor. Dasmath Hansdah, the chief of the Majhi Pargana Mahal, had written to the vice chancellor, saying there were no inaccuracies in Hansda’s post, and called the assertions made by him a “truthful representation of the cultural and religious traditions of the Adivasi community and their culinary legacies”.
Though it is not clear if the university suspended Hansda, “he stopped going to college”, Dasmath Hansdah told HuffPost India.