Six activists of the Jharkhand statehood movement, who were sent to jail on Saturday by a Railway Magistrate in a 1991 case, were on Monday bailed out from the Chaibasa jail. Xavier Dias, John Barjo, Basudev Devgum, Moso Munda, Rajaram Tanti and Indu Lagur were released at 6.30 pm. Three of the nine accused in the case have died.
They were sent to jail despite a pardon granted by the state government in all cases originating out of the successful movement to carve out Jharkhand from Bihar.
State Home Secretary J B Tubid said this was because this particular case was out of the purview of the state government. “The (Union) Railway Ministry has to take a call in this. We had written to them a long time ago, asking for special consideration in cases relating to Jharkhand movement activists. There must be 20-25 such cases. There has been no response,” he said.
The case relates to a protest that was organised on March 15, 1991. Some workers of the Tata Iron and Steel Company had allegedly invaded upon the privacy of tribal women while celebrating Holi. “According to Ho tradition unless the village head priest Duri performs the Baa puja villagers under his jurisdiction cannot participate in similar festivals elsewhere. It’s a sacrilege,” wrote Xavier Dias in a widely-circulated note drafted before his arrest.
The accused, then members of the All Jharkhand Students’ Union, organised the tribals of the area for the protest. According to the complaint by the Chief Security Officer of the TISCO’s Noamundi plant, which formed the basis of the FIR, the protesters “snatched the keys from the sepoy”, pushed him and “removed the fish-plates” of the railway track used for transportation.
All accused have been on bail since 1991. Meanwhile, three accused — Kandey Laguri, John Tiria and Jeno Chatar — passed away.
The arrests took place as the accused had not been attending court proceedings for over a year. In response, the court cancelled their bail bonds and sent notices warning attachment of property, forcing the six to surrender before it.
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