Ruled by the Bharatiya Janata
Party, Jharkhand has become infamous for abusing the Prevention
of Terrorism Act, 2002. Jharkhand, which faces low intensity
conflict with the Naxalites, had more detainees under POTA
than Jammu and Kashmir, the central focus of India’s war
against terror. Though about 145 POTA detainees involved
in 59 were released in June 2004 because of the lack of
sheer evidence, many of the released POTA detainees continued
to remain in prison under various offences filed under normal
laws like the Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal Code.
Many were too poor to pay the bail bond money and have little
access to legal aid. However, those police personnel who
had abused POTA have been given complete impunity.
Hundreds of people continued to remain in the First
Information Reports filed under the POTA.
On 20 June 2004, the People’s
War Group (PWG) in response to Jharkhand Chief Minister
Arjun Munda’s call for dialogue on 12 June 2004, offered
to hold peace talks with the government. The PWG put forth
nine conditions including immediate withdrawal of paramilitary
forces from Naxal-infested areas, probe into cases of fake
encounters and action against guilty police officials, withdrawal
of the POTA and lifting ban on the outfit. However, Jharkhand government did not
respond positively and no talks were held at the end of
2004. On 7 November 2004, the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC)
and PWG reportedly merged into a single group - Communist
Party of India (Maoists). The PWG is reportedly active in 18 out
of the 22 districts. Nearly 495 persons including 188 policemen
have been killed in the Naxalite related violence since
the creation of the state in November 2000.
The security forces have
been responsible for serious human rights violations while
countering the Naxalites. The People’s Union for Civil Liberties
(PUCL) in its inquiry report released in May 2004 held the
members of the Nagarik Suraksha Samiti (NSS), a counter
insurgency group floated by the police, responsible for
lynching to death of about 13 alleged activists of the Naxalites
at Longo in Dumuria block in East Singhbhum district between
7 and 22 August 2003. The PUCL alleged that district police
and the NSS members continued to harass innocent villagers
accusing them of being Naxalite sympathisers. There were reports of torture and arbitrary
deprivation of the right to life in 2004.
Jharkhand, the heartland
of India’s indigenous peoples, registered sharp decline
of the percentage of Adivasis. The State government recommended
inclusion of the Kurmis, presently considered as upper Caste
Hindus, into “Scheduled Tribes” list which evoked vehement protest.
The Adivasis have been disproportionate
victims of displacement by development projects, land alienation
and extreme poverty.