‘Ulgulan Nyay’: INDIA Bloc’s Rally In Jharkhand And Its Connection With Adivasi Rights

The rally will be led by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) – a party that was dealt a great blow after the arrest of former Chief Minister and Adivasi leader Hemant Soren.

Preparations for INDIA bloc rally in Ranchi Photo: - PTI

When tribal leader Birsa Munda led a fierce rebellion in 1895 against the British colonial rule and the Christian missionaries in the Bengal Presidency (now Jharkhand), it came to be known as Ulgulan or 'the great tumult'. The aim was to eradicate social inequalities, end the exploitative system prevalent in the region and gain independence from the British.

More than 10 decades later, leaders of the INDIA alliance will hold the ‘Ulgulan (uprising) Nyay rally’ in Ranchi’s Prabhat Tara ground in a joint show of strength amid Lok Sabha elections on Sunday. The clarion call given for the mega rally is to “expose the central government's dictatorial approach.” 

The rally will be led by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) – a party that was dealt a great blow after the arrest of former Chief Minister and Adivasi leader bjp">Hemant Soren. His wife Kalpana Soren, along with leaders from 28 different political parties including Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, Lalu Prasad, Farooq Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav, and Sunita Kejriwal, wife of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, will be present at the event. 

Why is the rally being held?

The ‘Ulgulan (uprising) Nyay rally’ in Jharkhand will be the third such gathering of INDIA bloc leaders (after Mumbai and Delhi). Inflation, unemployment, economic disparity, and polarisation were on the agenda for the previous rallies. 

The third such display of unity being held in Jharkhand and led by JMM is of significance, especially in the backdrop of Hemant Soren’s arrest. Soren was considered as one of the leading Adivasi leaders in Northern India and was the one who gave the call to unite Adivasis across the region. 

After his arrest, Soren in no uncertain terms called it out as an attack on Adivasis and said that the ruling party wants them to go back to the jungle. “They don’t want us to ride on BMW,” he said during his speech in the assembly on the day of floor test when his successor Champai Soren proved his majority. While talking to Outlook, current CM and senior Adivasi leader of the state Champai Soren said, “In every decade some Adivasi leaders emerge to reclaim their rights of Jal Jungle Jameen and every time they try to punish him. From the days of Birsa to today’s time.” 

What is the political meaning behind the name of the rally?

The naming of the rally as ‘Ulgulan Nyay’ also conveys the Adivasi struggle for forest rights that have allegedly been curtailed in the last few years. The Raghubar Das-led BJP state government in 2017-18 was notorious for attempting to amend the CNT and SPT Act – British era legislations directed to protect the rights of Adivasis over their land; this gave rise to large-scale Adivasi movements in the state. 

Former Education Minister Geetashree Oraon says, “That movement was responsible for the Adivasi consolidation before the 2019 assembly elections and led to the defeat of the BJP government.” 

In Jharkhand, ahead of this year’s elections, opposition parties are banking on the sympathy over Soren’s arrest along with the fear of return of Das’s tenure that allegedly tried to curtail Adivasi rights previously.

Attempts by parties to reach out to Adivasi vote bank

Not just the opposition, but several political parties have been trying to evoke the legacy of Birsa Munda and other tribal leaders to address the Adivasi constituencies that comprise almost 9 per cent of the population. 

Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while celebrating Munda’s birth anniversary from his village near Ranchi launched projects worth Rs 20 thousand crores for the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) community. He also started his Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra, to inform the beneficiaries or labharthis about the schemes that the Modi government has initiated in the last few years, from the same region.

Meanwhile, the Congress too did not leave the opportunity unattended. MP Rahul Gandhi while addressing his rallies early this month in Shahdol and Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh promised the sixth schedule for the Adivasis in the region.

The NDA is looking to replicate its 2019 electoral performance in the state (winning 12 out of 14 seats in alliance with the All Jharkhand Students’ Union) while the JMM and Congress-led INDIA bloc are hoping to bank on support from tribal communities, which form the cornerstone of Jharkhand's voter base. The state goes to polls from May 13.