— Sukhdev Prasad
Jharkhand bandh called on 5 July 2018 at the united call of Left and opposition parties against the BJP government to demand withdrawal of the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill 2017 was historic with active participation of all adivasi people, Pathalgadhi movement adivasi communities, various democratic forces, and intellectuals. The spontaneous people’s support was in evidence several days prior to the bandh and got translated into a very successful bandh. The Raghuvar government had also got wind of this and held a press conference few days before the bandh to use the media to foil the bandh. They created fear by saying that the bandh would be dealt with very sternly and would deploy the police force extensively. They tried to create a false narrative about the Land Acqisiton Bill. 3 days before the bandh 150 Mukhiyas from across Jharkhand were summoned to the capital Ranchi, told that they were responsible village officials, and given training on how to ensure the failure of the bandh. Traffic police personnel were sent to all the schools in Ranchi city to ensure that schools remained open. But their ploys failed. The bandh was so spontaneous that there was no need to put pressure on anyone. Shops and markets were closed in the entire city of Ranchi. The Bus Owners Association also decided not to run buses on that day and no long-distance buses plied in all the districts including Ranchi. Production and transportation of coal in the CCL coal regions of Hazaribagh, Ramgarh, Palamu and Chatara came to a near standstill. The BCCL and ECL colliery regions of Dhanbad district were also affected. The GT Road, NH 33, NH 75 and NH 98 were practically deserted. Goods carriers and autos were also very few in number. Bandh supporters were arrested when they tried to stop the Bhubaneshwar Rajdhani Express at Bokaro. Petrol pumps were also closed in this district. The Howrah Janshatabdi Express was stopped at Madhupur. Rail traffic was stopped for 3 hours near the Taljhari railway gate in Sahabganj District. The Brahmaputra Mail was stopped for one hour at the Badharwa railway station. Railway tracks were jammed for hours at Pakud. Bauxite tanks and long-distance vehicles were stopped for in Lohardaga District. In Hazaribagh District the NH 100 and the Barhi GT Road wore a deserted look. Petrol pumps in the district were closed. Bandh supporters in Dumka District were arrested as they tried to stop rail traffic. Hundreds of women came out on the streets in support of the bandh at Kathikund. The Pathalgadhi mass base in Khunti District supported the bandh wholeheartedly. But active participation in the Ghaghra region, the centre point of the Pathalgadhi movement, was hampered because many of the villagers have fled from their villages due to police repression and police camps.
Thus the 5 July Jharkhand bandh was historic and unprecedented because the adivasis and working people of Jharkhand thumbed their noses at extensive police repression and terror, false propaganda, and the government conspiracy to divide the people and gave all their energy to making the bandh a success. The people of Jharkhand have given firm proof that they are determined to save the resources of Jharkhand (water, forests, lands, and minerals) from corporate loot and to implement Schedule 5 of the Constitution in Jharkhand.
The CPI(ML) took initiatives and participated actively in the bandh. Thousands of people under the Party banner marched in support of the bandh and jammed roads and rail traffic at hundreds of places in all districts of Jharkhand. The GT Road remained blockaded for hours at Bagodar in Giridih District and also thousands kept roads jammed in all the Blocks. People came out in support of the bandh at dozens of places in Palamu, Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Dhanbad-Bokaro, Ramgarh, Khunti and all other districts.
A total of 18973 bandh supporters were arrested in Jharkhand. The CPI(ML) was at the forefront to bring people out on the streets in support of the bandh, along with JMM and other parties. CPI(ML) State Secretary Janardan Prasad, Shubhendu Sen, Bhuvaneshwar Kewat courted arrest in Ranchi along with other Party activists and Opposition leaders. This successful Jharkhand bandh has sent out a clear message to the ruling BJP that attempts undermining tribal people’s rights and corporate land grabs will not be tolerated.