Jesuit inspired movements among central Indian tribes
Social movements have been the backbone of the integral liberation of the tribal people in the central zone Provinces in India. First, Jesuits Savari Muthu of the Hazaribag Province, Dharamsheel Kujur and Cyprian Ekka, of the Ranchi Province inspired and guided the tribal people’s non-violent resistance against the Indian Government’s Field Firing Range Project in the hills of Netarhat. At the behest of the Indian army, the Government of India notified to acquire about 1471 sq. km of forest land. This displaced 252 853 persons from their lands and homes from 245 villages in the Netarhat hills. The tribals of the area had already suffered casualties and loss of their crops from their fields for the last 30 years during the routine field firing practices in summer. The people did not want to suffer any more because of the new project.
Consequently, along with the local village leaders, the Jesuits mobilized the affected people to put up a strong non-violent protest against the project. On 23rd March 1994, when the army came in armoured vehicles for the field firing practices, about 1000 men and women from the affected villages put up a sit-in-blockade and forced the army to retreat. Jesuits are still involved in the strategic planning and awareness building among the people against any displacement. The people’s victory over the mighty Indian army became a spectacular strategy of non-violent protest movement in the State and the country.
The second successful people’s movement was against a hydropower project in the Gumla District of Ranchi Province. The movement was pioneered by the Research Department of Xavier Institute of Social Service (XISS), a premier B-School in the State and the country under the Jesuit leadership of Michael Van den Bogaert, Christopher Lakra, and Alexius Ekka. The Government of India had wanted to put up a hydropower project since 1980 at the confluence of Koel and Karo rivers with the expected capacity of 710 MW power generation, yet displacing about 51 312 tribal people from 167 villages. In 1984, XISS organized a national seminar on the feasibility of large dams. There, the affected people of Koel Karo stated that there was no resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) policy even as the hydropower project was in progress. The Director of the Institute along with the leaders of the Koel Karo movement filed a People’s Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court challenging this state of affairs. In its verdict, the Supreme Court suspended the construction of the project till its R&R policy was in place. This judgement was a virtual victory for the people, so they continued their agitation, which resulted in the cancellation of the anti-people hydropower project by the Cabinet in 2010.