ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bringing ‘Identity’ Back In Reviving Nativism in Contemporary Jharkhand

The Jharkhand statehood movement was anchored in the “Jharkhandi” identity acquiring different dimensions over a period of 65 years. However, with the state formation in 2000, the identity question was relocated mostly to the civil society from the political space. But, at least since 2019, Hemant Soren has reintroduced the Jharkhandi identity back in the political discourse of Jharkhand by demanding a separate Sarna religion for Adivasis, 1932 land records as the basis of domicile and reservation in state jobs beyond “accepted” limits. A possible implication of this move is the consolidation of the Moolvasi (Adivasi and Sadan) votes for the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

The Jharkhand Legislative Assembly passed two bills in November 2022—the first bill is called the Jharkhand Definition of Local Persons and for Extending the Consequential Social, Cultural, and Other Benefits Bill and the second is called Jharkhand Reservation of Vacancies in Posts and Services (Amendment) Bill. The first bill tends to define the meaning of local resident or domicile of Jharkhand by laying down the criteria that only those people whose ancestor’s name figures in the land records of 1932 can be considered as local residents. The law also mentions that in the lack of required evidence for landless people, the relevant gram sabha will have the authority to verify the residence of the beneficiary. The second bill proposes to increase the cap on reservation in government jobs from existing 60% to 77%, allowing 28% reservation for Scheduled Tribes (STs), 12% for Scheduled Castes (SCs), 27% for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and 10% for economically weaker sections. Given the fact that the High Court of Jharkhand had earlier objected to consider 1932 as the cut-off date for identifying domicile, both these bills are sent to the union government with the request to put them under Schedule IX of the Constitution, thus saving them from judicial review.

In the succeeding paragraphs, we will analyse the trajectory of the domicile issue in Jharkhand and try to understand its political implications. In constructing the arguments, our approach is to critically engage with some of the notions emerging from the more recent writings on this topic. The attempt here is to provide a historical account of domicile issue in Jharkhand and understand its significance for the Adivasis and Sadans.1 This article argues that apart from its utility for the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) to consolidate its position among the Moolvasis,2 the pending legislations will also meaningfully address the question of marginality of Jharkhandi people. In a nutshell, these issues have helped to recentre the political discourse in Jharkhand by bringing back “Jharkhandi identity” through nativistic politics at a time when communal and corporate narratives overwhelm politics at both national and regional levels.

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Updated On : 10th Oct, 2023
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