Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren said on Thursday that his party will withdraw sedition cases filed against Pathalgadi supporters if elected to power in the state. Soren made the remark in an interview with The Caravan. Pathalgadi is a practice adopted by some villages in Jharkhand to declare their gram sabha as the only sovereign authority, not the state or central government.

The Jharkhand Assembly elections for all 81 seats are being held in five phases. The results of the polls will be announced on December 23. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha is contesting the polls in alliance with the Congress, while the Bharatiya Janata Party is contesting on its own.

“Pathalgadi is a tradition of Adivasis,” Soren told The Caravan when asked about whether those involved in the movement were “anti-nationals”. “Tribals have their own traditions. And no government has any right to interfere on such issues. It’s a matter of their cultural tradition and identity.”

Though Soren said that his government will withdraw sedition cases against Pathalgadi supporters if voted to power, the party’s manifesto had no such mention. An analysis by civil rights group Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha showed that none of the parties in Jharkhand “committed firmly to closure of sedition charges, removal of police camps and taking responsible security personnel to task”. The organisation added that only the Congress and the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha had at least mentioned the word pathalgadi but even they did not commit to anything.

Last month, Scroll.in had reported that the police had filed sedition cases against more than 10,000 people in the district over 2017 and 2018 when Adivasi villages erected stone monoliths with engravings of the Indian Constitution related to tribal autonomy. Days later, the Jharkhand Police had said that media reports had given “totally incorrect and hugely inflated figures” about the number of people booked in sedition cases in the district.

Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha had then accused the state government of spreading misinformation to downplay the repression of Adivasis in Khunti district.