What’s In The Identity?

One of the glaring flaws of democracy is, many a times ‘popular sentiment’ ends up hijacking relevant issues of poverty, education & job creation. In nations like India hamstrung by ‘policy paralysis’ of successive governments, popular sentiments can easily turn insidious. They are often put to use by beleaguered governments to cozen the masses as they fail to address issues that actually matter. That’s why the communal cauldron is kept simmering, the caste fault lines running hot & the regional acrimony boiling.

One such popular sentiment running rampant across the state of Jharkhand is:

Why can’t a non- tribal be the state’s Chief Minister?

The ruling BJP led coalition used this obnoxiously frivolous ‘issue’ to milk the non- tribal voters of the state ( despite the fact that it was BJP which did rule the state for majority of last one & a half decade post bifurcation.) thus, shrewdly digressing from the debate on planned industrialization, proper rehabilitation for those who lost their lands to large conglomerates or in governmental projects like dams & addressing the menacing threat of naxal insurgency across the tribal belts.

 Raghubar Das, the incumbent CM is the first non- tribal head of the state. Surely there isn’t any ‘unwritten’ agreement between political entities to prop up a tribal CM every time they’re propelled to power.

At the same time there isn’t any constitutional provision guaranteeing the top post to a specific community (it’d a travesty of democracy if  tribals less than 25% of Jharkhand’s population are disproportionately powerful).

However, the subtext is:

As the Jharkhand Mukti Andolan began gathering steam by 1970’s when Jharkhand party proposed for separate Jharkhand state for the tribal populace of Chotanagpur and Santhal Pargana of Bihar. It was essentially this ‘tribal’ nature of demands & the protests that ensued against the government of Bihar which had allegedly profited from the rich mineral reserves of the region without alleviating the execrable conditions of the ‘Adivasis’. By the time Bihar was bifurcated, it was evidently clear that the movement was feeding on the sweat & blood of ‘Adivasi’ community & not the wider populace of the region. Thus, post formation of Jharkhand it fell as a ‘moral obligation’ upon political parties of all hues to give precedence to Adivasi leaders.

Another important factor is:

The Naxal menace which fell as a scourge on Eastern India (owing to the growing divide between classes & continued feudal practices across the hinterlands of Bengal) would wreck havoc on the already fragile social relations between Adivasis & Non- Adivasis. Disenchanted youth of the Adivasi community would go onto join the rank & files of Naxal militias, popular media (as is their cardinal duty) would vilify the entire community; spinning outlandish & fantastical canards each day (just as they love to denigrate the entire Muslim community today). This disillusionment of Adivasis needed immediate ministration lest it could easily turn into a calamitous maelstrom threatening peace across the land.

Hence, ‘mainstreaming’ of Adivasis became the central policy of Bihar government back in 80’s & 90’s & finally when Jharkhand was formed, the anointment of Adivasi leaders as CM of state turned the populist manifestation of this anachronistic policy.

©Haris Ahmed


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