Thousands of people, from across Jharkhand, gathered at Raj Bhawan (Ranchi) today to demand that the Hemant Soren government rejects NPR and stops all NPR-related activities. Many people’s organisations (partial list attached) participated in this dharna, convened by Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha. Jharkhand’s main communities – hindus, muslims, christians, dalits, adivasis and others – were all well represented.

Participants also included women from Kadru Bagh, Ranchi’s own “Shaheen Bagh”, where hundreds of women have united in a continuous sit-in against CAA, NRC and NPR for several weeks. Their courageous protest has inspired many – other parts of Jharkhand (including all the main cities and many smaller towns) have also seen regular protests for weeks on end.

The dharna epitomized a rapidly growing concern among all communities in Jharkhand about the NPR-NRC process, which is due to start on 1 April along with the household listing of the 2021 census. Most people in Jharkhand don’t have the documents that are likely to be required from them if they are asked to prove their citizenship.

Introducing the event, James Herenj said, “Many state governments are opposing the NRC and some have appealed to the central government to repeal the CAA. Kerala and West Bengal have issued an order categorically staying all NPR activities. What is stopping Jharkhand from doing this?” The same point is made in the petition sent today to the state government on behalf of all dharna participants (copy enclosed).

Other speakers included Kumar Chand Mardi, Prafull Linda, Sarsaraj, Vinod Singh (MLA), Jean Dreze, Dharamdas Valmiki, Dayamani Barla, Ibrar Ahmad, Aloka Kujur, Vasavi Kiro, PC Murmu, Naren Kumar Bhuiyan, Premsai Munda, among many others from all walks of life. Their spirited speeches were interspersed with lively songs, slogans and poems. The creativity, solidarity and peacefulness that have marked most anti-NRC protests so far across the country was on full display.

The statements by the various speakers brought out the communal, anti-poor, and exclusionary nature of the CAA-NPR-NRC process especially in the context of Jharkhand with its large Adivasi population. Some of their insightful points are below:

Sifwa – “Today, Muslim women have taken the responsibility to fight the fascist government and save the country from them. The mothers of Shaheen Bagh have shown us the way. The killers of Rohit Vemula were also from the BJP. We will also fight for his justice as well as Pehlu Khan, Aklhaq, and others.”

Ibrar Ahmed – “It is a very positive step that the movement against NRC in Jharkhand is now being led and energised not only my Muslims but also by large numbers of women and men from all communities”.

Dharamdas Valmiki – “Safai Karamchari Andolan staunchly opposes CAA-NPR-NRC. We shall fight, we shall win!”

Dayamani Barla – “RSS wants to take away the lands and evict the Jharkhandis from their own lands. We will not let them succeed… This is not a fight of religions, it is a fight to save our country and constitution, to save our hard-earned rights.”

Shahbaaz – “The government is trying hard to break people’s solidarity. This Act is outright communal. We must continue fighting it. Their next step will be a Universal Civil Code. We must be united and strong in fighting that as well.”

PP Verma – “This is not only a Muslim movement. This a movement of Dalits, Adivasis, Villagers, Poor. There are many non-Muslims who have come out today to make this message clear.”

Aloka Kujur – “Jharkhand is a state of hills and jungles where for many years there have been attempts are uprooting the Jharkhandis from their land and lives. In such a situation, CAA-NPR-NRC will be very dangerous for Jharkhand. In the Fifth Schedule Areas, the Gram Sabha is the most powerful and only they will create laws for their people”.

Solomon – “CAA-NRC are being brought in to break the Constitution. The struggle to save it shall continue and be taken forward.”

Sunil Minj – “Those who are rich will find a way out. But what about Dalits who are poor and landless? How will they prove their identity/citizenship? Where will they find safety? CAA-NRC is an attack against the Constitution.”

The dharna was also addressed at length by ex-IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan, who resigned from the services last year over growing attacks on the democracy. Gopinathan said “this is not a Hindu-Musalman issue at all, this act is anti-poor, anti-woman, anti-Adivasi who cannot produce the documents… the biggest danger of NPR is that one Babu in a block can tag anyone as a doubtful citizen… We need to ask questions, questions about unemployment, which is highest in last few decades, 3.25 Cr. employment has gone in last 5 years, in private sector.”

Another highlight of the dharna was a performance by well-known poet Aamir Aziz, including “Sab Yaad Kiya Jaega”, a powerful poem that has gone viral recently.

The dharna ended with a resolve to continue the struggle against CAA, NRC and NPR and to intensify the pressure on the Hemant Soren government to stop NRC. Participants left the venue with thousands of leaflets alerting people to the dangers of this process, in anticipation of local meetings on this issue all over Jharkhand.


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