– ‘State govt should talk to us face-to-face’
SUMAN K. SHRIVASTAVA & RAJ KUMAR
Ranchi, July 6: Nagri villagers leading a violent agitation against proposed campuses of three national institutes of learning do not want political leaders to hijack their movement to get back the 218 acres acquired by the government in the ’50s.
“Leaders like Dayamami Barla, Bandhu Tirkey, Stan Swami etc have misled us by saying they would find a legal and political solution to the problem. But the result is that we lost the legal battle and appear to be heading nowhere,” said Ranjeet Toppo, one of 35 core committee members of Jameen Bachao Sangarsh Samiti that is spearheading the agitation.
He said the government should hold talks with the villagers.
“We do not want any leader to mediate,” added Toppo, a resident of Nagri, on the outskirts of the state capital where angry villagers demolished a boundary wall that is being constructed around a 76-acre plot earmarked for Indian Institute of Management- Ranchi on Wednesday.
“They kept on assuring us that the government would take action (to return the land), but the result is for everyone to see. We should have not waited till July 4 (Wednesday) to demolish the boundary wall. It should have been done much earlier,” he said.
Ironically, it was a delegation of 50 villagers, led by Barla and Swami among others, who met JMM chief Shibu Soren at his Morabadi residence in Ranchi today.
Soren apparently pledged his support to the ongoing movement and promised to attend a public meeting in Nagri sometime next week.
Soren’s assurance ended the 24-hour blockade on the Ranchi-Patratu Road, a kilometre from Nagri. But, district authorities could not say when construction work at the site would resume.
Ever since Nagri villagers launched their agitation against campuses of National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL), Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) and IIM-Ranchi coming up on 218 acres of their “agricultural” land, several politicians — Babulal Marandi, Salkhan Murmu and Bandhu Tirkey — have joined the protests to express solidarity with the tribals.
Barla, a tribal activist who had joined the agitation in January on the invitation of Nagri villagers, did not seem unduly worried at the sudden turnaround by some of them. “I do not want leadership credit of any movement. I have no vested interests. All I wanted was that villagers should not lose their agricultural land,” she maintained.
Barla went on to suggest that the samiti’s core committee was politicised with several of its leaders belonging to the two ruling allies, JMM and Ajsu.
“I had asked them to prevail upon the two deputy chief ministers, Sudesh Mahto and Hemant Soren, to put pressure on the government to take a decision in the interest of the villagers. But they took time to approach them,” she said.
The samiti’s 35-member core committee has members from Nagri and adjoining villages of Sukurhuttu, Khatanga, Tiru Tola, Husir, Chamguru, Sundar Nagar, Kanke, Garu, Gagi, Nawadih, Kunki, Rarha, Sangrampur, Palu and Churi Bastee — all within a radius of 10km.
Of them, five are from Nagri: Ranjeet Toppo, Nandi Kacchap, Dinesh Toppo, Ramanand Toppo and Shiv Narayan Toppo. Three belong to the JMM, including Samnur Mansoori from Sukurhutu. One is an Ajsu leader, Anil Mahto, from Khatanga.
But, it wasn’t just committee members. Several Nagri villagers seemed to share the view of the morcha that politicians weren’t helping their cause to save their land.
“We saved our land in 1957-58 after the erstwhile Bihar government tried to acquire it when we fought on our own. But now, we see the boundary wall of at least two institutions, IIM-R and NSURL coming up,” said Munda Toppo, a local resident and retired Ranchi University employee.
“Our leaders have cheated us. Had they honestly thought for us, they would have never allowed use of our agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes,” he said.
Chandan Kumar, a student preparing for competitive exams, alleged the government was working for the corporates and against the interests of the local villagers.
“A four-lane road which is passing through our area is not for us. It was for Jindal Steel to carry its produce smoothly. If the government had thought of us, it would have constructed the road 10 years before,” he said.