At his ready-made garment shop, Mohd. Faizi, once a firebrand leader of the Jharkhand movement, recounts how ‘Bihari’ policemen had once demolished his small business amid a volley of choicest abuses. “My father’s shop was there for decades and suddenly we got evicted. ‘They’ never learnt our culture. ‘They’ were here to rule. It is our state, not ‘Their’ paternal property,” says Faizi, a former central committee member of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), who is now in his mid-50s.
Rage against the ‘outsider’ has been the ‘in-thing’ in the native Jharkandi ethos. A government notification, issued on September 14, said that a 1932 land survey will now be used as the benchmark for the state domicile policy and only those whose ancestors find mention in the khata (land records) will be termed as ‘locals’. It has come as a shot in the arm in the sub-nationalist identity politics of the state. The move of the Jharkhand government came around two years after Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s historic decision to pass the Sarna code bill, asking the Centre to provide a separate religion column for Adivasis who do not self-identify as Hindus, in 2021 Census. For the Adivasis, Sarna is the religion of sacred groves that connects them to their eternal claims over jal, jangal aur jameen (water, forest and land). While the recognition of Sarna was Soren’s first step to promote the separate identity of Adivasis, declaring the 1932 khatiyan as the basis of domicile is being billed as a masterstroke to assert the sub-national identity.