Dayamani Barla, famously known as the Iron lady of Jharkhand and is one of the most-known tribal activists and journalists in the country. She will be contesting assembly elections from Khunti seat in Jharkhand. Barla owns and runs a tea shop that supports her journalistic desire and career.
Khunti is scheduled to go to polls in Phase II of Jharkhand’s Assembly elections on December 7.
The total Tribal population constitutes 27 percent of the Jharkhand population of 3.19 crore. Dayamani Barla belongs to the Munda tribal group.
She will be contesting from Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) party. JVM-P is the party formed by former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi.
For the last 25 years, Barla has been fighting the state and several multinationals over the issues of land rights and the identity and culture of tribals. Barla is the National President of the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF).
She became notable for her activism in opposing Arcelor Mittal’s steel plant in Eastern Jharkhand that tribal activists say would have displaced several villages. Barla won a number of prestigious awards for her activism and journalism.
This will be the second time in her life, she is about to contest elections. After unsuccessfully contesting from the Khunti Parliamentary seat on an AAP ticket in 2014.
Khunti : Epicentre of Pathhargarhi movement
Khunti has been at the forefront of a civil disobedience movement called Patthargarhi (Pathalgadi). The Patthargarhi movement was at its peak around mid last year. The movement involved placing records on stones by the villagers. The stones had provisions from the Fifth Schedule of the constitution and the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996. Through the inscriptions, the villagers were asserting their rights to administer their own areas based on provisions in the Constitution.
Thousands of locals and Adivasis from neighbouring districts such as Lohardaga, Gumla, Simdega and Ranchi participated in the movement for several months. The state, however, discredited the legitimate movement as unconstitutional and the handiwork of naxals.
The police has registered several cases against named and unnamed people who have allegedly participated in the movement. They are charged under different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 124A (sedition).
When asked about her decision to contest elections and about the movement Dayamani Barla says that “Patthargarhi is a tradition of adivasis. Tribals are being forced to part with their land at gun-point. They are being told that if they don’t part with their land, that land will be turned into their burial ground. What alternative does a tribal have, but to assert their rights? Rights that give them control over the land under gram sabha and of the natural resources within under the Fifth Schedule.
She said that since lawmakers weren’t thinking of “the local people before awarding our natural resources to some millionaire from outside. So we end up going in circles, fighting for our rights, which are squandered away by lawmakers, and fighting for them again. So I decided to go to the very place where laws are made”.
The first time she fought polls, the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, she says she was quite unfamiliar with the election process. “The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had given those elections tickets to many activists like Medha Patkar and Soni Sori. There was a feeling of optimism. But it was only after the elections that many of us understood the mechanism of fighting elections and how different it is from activism.”
In the atmosphere were crores are spent for elections, Dayamani Barla has very limited resources. She is crowdfunding her election campaign.
Click on the link here to support her campaign.