Jharkhand tribal group demands separate Kolhan Estate Government; 43 charged with sedition

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New Delhi | December 27, 2017 11:57 AM

A group of tribals of Bhagabila village in Chaibasa (Jharkhand) is demanding a separate 'Kolhan Estate Government' citing the British Raj norms.

As many as 43 have been booked with sedition in this village of Jharkhand

A group of tribals of Bhagabila village in Chaibasa (Jharkhand) is demanding a separate ‘Kolhan Estate Government’ citing the British Raj norms. However, the move has led to as many as 43 people being booked for sedition, criminal conspiracy, and other charges so far. One such tribal has been arrested as well. Their leader, an ex-additional district magistrate of then Bihar (undivided), Ramo Birua is absconding. Birua, 83-year-old, had issued a call to hoist the flag for “a separate Kolhan Estate”, on December 18. It was the second time police lodged an FIR against Birua. In April, he was arrested following a case at Manjhari police station of West Singbhum district, for similar activities. Deputy Superintendent of Police Prakash Soy told the Indian Express, “This time, he tried to get things done on a bigger scale… He had begun issuing certificates like for caste, income, and age, under the letterhead of ‘Kolhan Estate Government’. Initially, we thought him to be an old maverick. But when he distributed pamphlets, posters, and banners talking about Kolhan Estate Government and planned to unfurl the flag, we decided to take action.”

Birua’s claim is based on the 1837 ‘Wilkinson’s Rule’ — a British-era instrument to control the Kolhan region, comprising West Singhbhum, East Singhbhum, and Seraikela Kharsawan districts of Jharkhand. With its constitutional status not yet settled, Kolhan continues to remain a separate entity within India, according to Birua. Notably, since Independence, there has been no explicit legislation setting aside The Wilkinson’s Rule. The demand for separate Kolhan Estate isn’t new, in 1982-83, a group of leaders from the region, under the banner of the Kolhan Raksha Sangh, had even made their way to London demanding that being a region “separate from India”, Kolhan be given the right to interact with the British Commonwealth on its own. The leaders were then booked under the charge of sedition.

A Bhagabila village local confirmed the Indian Express that the officials have come “half-a-dozen times” to inquire about the flag plan. “As it is, youngsters from here go to places like Gujarat and Bengaluru to work. Some work in the fields, but the rest have escaped… I request them (the officials) not to harass us,” the local added.

What is the ‘Wilkinson’s Rule’

After Sir Robert Clive defeated the joint forces of Nawabs of Oudh and Bengal, supported by Mughal emperor Shah Alam-II, in Battle of Buxar, 1765, the British entered into an agreement with the local kings, to collect rent on their behalf. Later, King of Porahat, now a town in Chaibasa, promised the British higher revenue if he was given control. The British agreed. By 1832, however, the Kol tribal groups rose in rebellion against the high rent and usurpation of their land by outsiders. The then British Agent for Kolhan region, Sir Thomas Wilkinson, decided to occupy the area by force. For three months, the Kols fought, but the rebellion was quashed. In 1837 though, Wilkinson decided Kolhan to be declared a ‘Kolhan Separate Estate’, headquartered in Chaibasa. He came out with what was called ‘The Wilkinson’s Rule’, under which traditional customary laws of Munda-Manaki would continue to be followed. While the Mundas were responsible for civil issues at the village level, Manaki, one per gram panchayat, looked after criminal issues.

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