Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday castigated the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Jharkhand government for registering mass sedition cases against 10,000 unnamed Adivasis in Khunti district. The former Congress president, who cited a Scroll.in report that brought the matter to light, also criticised the media for not reporting on the matter in depth.
On Tuesday, Scroll.in had reported about the sedition cases registered against Adivasis who had participated in the Pathalgadi movement. The charges were spelled out in 14 first information reports filed in 2017 and 2018. The actual number of people accused of sedition may be higher if there are more FIRs than those accessed by Scroll.in.
“That any government could slam the draconian ‘sedition’ law on 10,000 Adivasis, fighting against state oppression, should have shocked the conscience of our nation and raised a media storm,” Gandhi tweeted. “But it hasn’t. Our ‘sold out’ media may have lost its voice; as citizens can we afford to?”
Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das told NDTV that Gandhi was not aware of the facts, and accused him of unnecessarily attempting to raise it ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections in the state. He said the action was taken against the Adivasis to establish the rule of law.
The Pathalgadi movement, which means the laying of stones, began in 2017 after Adivasi villages started installing stone monoliths with engravings of their interpretation of constitutional provisions about tribal autonomy. The police have accused the movement’s leaders of propagating “the wrong interpretation” of Constitution to mislead Adivasis and turn them against the government.
A writ petition challenging the sedition cases has been filed in the state High Court. A copy of the petition, which was filed on August 1 by a village organisation called the Adivasi Nyay Manch, has been served to the Jharkhand government and the police department. The first hearing in the matter is pending. The petitioner has accused investigating officers of failing to establish what is wrong about the interpretation of the constitutional provisions engraved on the stones. The petition has urged the court to transfer the cases to a special investigation agency.
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