Minutes after getting bail, tribal activist Dayamani Barla returns to life behind bars. Soumik Mukherjee reports
DAYAMANI BARLA, who was arrested earlier last week (State Ploy to Silence a Dissenting Voice?, 27 October), was rearrested in connection with the same case by the Jharkhand Police minutes after she was granted a judicial bail by a local court on 19 October. Barla’s arrest proves how a dissenting voice is shown little regard by the system, and how a state meant for tribals is safeguarding the interests of all, but tribals.
The police was acting on a separate FIR filed against Barla in 2006 in connection with the case that saw her arrest last week. Both the FIRs were filed after she led a protest outside a Block Development Officer’s office in Ranchi, demanding fair distribution of MGNREGS job cards. Interestingly, while the first FIR mentioned her name, the second FIR, on the basis of which she was rearrested, does not mention it; she was included under the ‘Others’ list.
In January, police questioned Barla for alleged Maoist links after she attended a conference in Ranchi where Binayak Sen and Telugu poet Varavara Rao had demanded the release of political activist Jiten Marandi. Barla’s colleagues term the latest arrest as “a shameless act” by the state authorities. Ranchi SSP Saket Kumar Singh refused to comment on the matter, saying: “Write whatever you want to. What difference will it make anyway?”
Barla has been at the forefront of land rights agitation in Jharkhand and one of the principal voices against State-sponsored atrocities against tribals. It is largely thanks to her efforts that steel companies such as Arcelor-Mittal were forced to stop acquiring large swathes of tribal forestland in Jharkhand.
Since land in Jharkhand is protected under the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and as most areas in the state come under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, farmland cannot be used for industrial purposes. But the government has been giving out farmland for industrial and urbanisation projects. Barla has ceaselessly stood up against these projects, constantly drawing the government’s ire.
At TEHELKA’s THiNK fest last year, Barla had drawn attention to the plight of the farmers and tribals in Jharkhand. Ironic that within a year of her rousing speech that was greeted with a standing ovation, this crusader finds herself all alone in her fight against the State’s excesses.
Soumik Mukherjee is a Correspondent with Tehelka.