Jharkhand BJP objects to Cardinal meeting Governor over land acts

Ranchi, March 6 (IANS) Jharkhand’s ruling BJP has taken strong exception to a delegation of tribal Christian priests, led by Ranchi Archbishop Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, meeting Governor Draupadi Murmu and demanding that the amendments to the two controversial land acts be scrapped as it was against the interest of the tribals.

State Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Laxman Gilua, who has launched an offensive against the Cardinal, alleged that his party had from the beginning maintained that people were being misled over the issue. He said that by meeting the Governor over the issue it is clear that the Church was backing the agitation against the amendments in the Chotanagur Tenancy Act (CNT) and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) acts.

“It is out in the open that religious heads are now indulging in politics,” Gilua on Monday told reporters, adding that it was wrong on the part of the Cardinal to say that the land of the tribals would be looted if the amendments in these two acts are ratified.

Gilua said that under the new amendments it has been nowhere said that land can be acquired for industrial use. The amendments only aim to facilitate the tribals to make commercial use of their own land. The religious heads should not mislead the people and should rather stick to their respective roles, he said.

State BJP Vice President Sameer Oraon said that it was wrong on the part of the Cardinal to intervene in a constitutional matter. As per constitutional norms, the amendments have been sent to the Governor.

He said the amendments are in the favour of the ‘adivasis and the moolvasis’.

BJP MLA Ramkuamr Pahan, who is also the head of the party’s SC Morcha, said the Cardinal should clarify which provisions in the amendments would lead to forcible acquisition of land of the tribals. He alleged that the Cardinal was misleading the people.

The Jharkhand government last November succeeded in passing the bills amending the two land acts — Chhotanagur Tenancy Act (CNT) and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act — which were tabled amid protests by the opposition on November 23.

The amendments were cleared by voice votes, without holding any discussion.

After passage of the amendment bills, agricultural land can be used for non-agricultural purposes. The government can acquire land for infrastructure, power plants, roads, canals, panchayat buildings and others.