On September 13, 2021, the West Singhbhum district administration in Jharkhand imposed CCA (Crime Control Act) on John Meeran Munda, the Central President of Jharkhand Kamgar Mazdoor Union and All India Krantikari Adivasi Mahasabha, who is a resident of Jodapokhar High School Colony which comes under Jhinkpani police station.
Meeran Munda has been ordered to present himself daily at the Jaraikela police station, which is about 100 km away from his home.
After the order was issued by the West Singhbhum district administration, his wife Pushpa Sinku sat on a fast for 48 hours in front of the Sadar sub-division office from September 21 along with the colleagues of the Akhil Bharatiya Krantikari Adivasi Mahasabha and from there a demand letter was submitted to the sub-divisional officer through the Governor of Jharkhand, and sent to Chief Minister Hemant Soren.
In this letter, she demanded a CBI inquiry into the CCA against her husband John Meeran Munda and the cases registered at Jhinkpani and Tonto police stations.
Pushpa Sinku says, “West Singhbhum district is a tribal dominated district and rich in mineral matters, but the condition of the tribals of the area is pathetic.
Even after 74 years of independence, the tribal community is forced to sell wood, datun, leaves, hadiya (local liquor) etc. or else the tribal population is forced to migrate to other states. My husband’s question is why exactly are the people of a rich district poor?- Pushpa Sinku
“Why has the 5th Schedule Act, which protects the interests of tribals, not been implemented even after independence? Why has the Samta Judgment not been implemented in the mines sector till now? Why has the water not reached the farmers’ fields yet? When my husband is making the public aware about these questions, the CCA sections have been imposed by the district administration on the basis of registering a fake message to suppress his voice.”
Pushpa Sinku asks that “in Indian democracy everyone has the right to raise voice against exploitation, then why is my husband, who raised his voice against exploitation, being maligned as a notorious criminal by the district administration?”
She continued that “if my husband was a notorious criminal, then a criminal case should have been registered against him in other police stations across the district. That the cases were registered at Jhinkpani and Tonto police stations shows that the ACC management is behind this. The ACC company is located in Jhinkpani police station area and ACC cement making limestone comes from Rajanka, Dokatta, etc. which comes under the Tonto police station area.”
Further, Sinku explained that “the main reason for imposing CCA on my husband is that the ACC management has to extend the lease and take the lease of F-3 block. The order for daily attendance at the Jaraikela police station, 102 km away from Jhinkpani and Tonto police station area, is a plan to keep Munda away so that the ACC management can loot the land of the tribals again cheaply. Travelling such long distances every day is also worsening the financial condition of my family. Keeping my husband away from the family for 6 months is a conspiracy to starve my family.”
On the other hand, tribal and labour leader John Meeran Munda says that “the Jharkhand government and the district administration have declared me a goonda on the behest of local JMM MLA Deepak Birua and ACC management and have imposed CCA on me for 6 months. The 29 cases filed against me in Jhinkpani and Tonto police stations have been made the basis of CCA, but all these cases against me have been filed by the ACC management and the local administration only because of the agitation. The government calls me a goon, while I am the central president of the registered trade union ‘Jharkhand Kamgar Mazdoor Union’ since 2009, whose registration number is 144/07. Also, since 2010, I am also the central president of Akhil Bharatiya Krantikari Adivasi Mahasabha. I have also contested as an independent from Chaibasa assembly constituency in the 2014 Jharkhand assembly elections, in which I got the third position. In 2014, he contested from Chaibasa Lok Sabha constituency on behalf of Forward Block.”
He says that “From 1991 to 2014, ACC Cement Company did illegal mining of limestone worth about 900 crores, in which a fine of 48 crores has also been paid on the order of the High Court in 2015. But the tribals neither got employment nor proper compensation. About 280 acres of land was acquired under F-2 block. But now mining is not possible from F-2 block, so the company wants to acquire about 100 acres under F-3 block. Our question is that first the oustees of F-2 block should get job and compensation, only then we will allow acquisition of land under F-3 block. In this, all the people of the acquisition area are with us, but the ruling party JMM MLA and ACC management wants to loot the land of tribal people at cheap prices by giving crores of rupees to the local village heads (Manki, Munda) etc.
Mundas explains that “when our movement intensified for jobs and fair compensation, then in the last month i.e. in August, Chief Minister Hemant Soren came and assured 45 people of jobs and also gave appointment letters to two people, but this was made conditional that once the mining starts in the F-3 block, the public will not put any hindrance in the acquisition of land for the F-3 block.”
“This was sheer injustice to the tribal people, so we started protesting against it too. To suppress this protest, I have been asked to attend the police station 102 km away while doing the police station.”
Adivasi labour leader John Meeran Munda says that he has taken a room on rent in Anandpur, about 30 km from Jaraikela police station and from there comes daily to attend. They say that I am stopped in the police station for 4 hours every day, while this is not recorded anywhere in the CCA order. On protesting, the station in-charge said that there is an order from above.
He says that “CCA has been imposed on me thrice. The first was imposed in 2013 and was jailed for a year, even when the Chief Minister was Hemant Soren. The CCA was imposed for the second time in 2018 and had to appear in the court for 6 months at an interval of 14 days, when the Chief Minister was Raghuvar Das of the BJP.”
He states that he has been to jail 10 times so far, with nearly three and a half years in prison.
John Meeran Munda, a 39-year-old tribal labor leader, says that even if he has to go to jail thousands of times for tribals and laborers, he will not back down, but will continue to raise the voice of the workers with more strength.
When asked about his plan of action, Munda says that he will soon challenge the CCA in the High Court and take to the streets in agitating action, adding their demands to the Bharat Bandh of 27 September.
When asked whether any trade union has opposed the CCA imposed on you till now? He says that “it is regrettable for us that no leaders of any trade union have called me till now, even leftist trade union haven’t contacted me.”
The article was first published in www.workersunity.com. It was translated into English by Shubhojeet Dey.