A lawyer from the team handling Hansda’s case told HuffPost India that he suspected the arrest was made after the elections were over so that the BJP did not anger the Adivasis and lose their votes before the polls. The BJP won 12 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand this year, same as 2014.
Ranchi: Jeetrai Hansda, a prominent tribal activist and professor at the Government School and College for Women, Sakchi, in Jharkhand was arrested on Saturday.
He was arrested almost two years after he wrote a Facebook post asserting his community’s right to eat beef on the basis of a complaint filed against him in June 2017 by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s student wing Akhil Bharati Vidyarthi Parishad.
The timing of the police action, two days after the declaration of the election results, has prompted questions whether the BJP-run administration in the state delayed the arrest to avoid an Adivasi backlash in the polls.
A lawyer from the team handling Hansda’s case told HuffPost India that he suspected the arrest was made after the elections were over so that the BJP did not anger the Adivasis and lose their votes before the polls. The BJP won 12 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand this year, same as 2014. The government at the state is also led by the BJP under Raghubar Das.
A diary was filed against Hansda’s Facebook post in 2017 and after ‘investigating’ the complaint, inspector Anil Kumar Singh of Sakchi police station lodged the FIR. Hansda’s lawyer said that though he was asked to appear in the police station, he wasn’t arrested back then. He was only arrested yesterday and continues to be in police custody. Hansda had also moved for anticipatory bail, which was rejected.
Hansda is a prominent Adivasi activist and theatre artist and his Facebook post asserted his community’s right to eat beef.
The FIR lodged at the Sakchi police station in Jamshedpur, stated that Hansda had written a Facebook post asserting that the Adivasi community in India has had a long tradition of eating beef and ceremonial cow sacrifice. It is their democratic and cultural right to consume the meat, he said. The post also said that they oppose India’s laws on eating beef and that his community also consumes peacocks, the country’s national bird. He also expressed his unwillingness to follow Hindu customs.
Hansda’s lawyer said that he had been asked to appear at the police station in 2017 but was not arrested. The professor’s application for anticipatory bail was also rejected. According to HuffPost India, Hansda has been charged with sections of the Indian Penal Code that deal with insults to religious feelings and attempts to promote enmity between groups of people.
Meanwhile, the leader of an organisation that works for the preservation of Adivasi traditions said that in 2017 he had urged the vice chancellor of Kolhan University, which runs the government college in Sakchi, not to expel the professor.
Dasmath Hansdah, the chief of the Majhi Pargana Mahal, had written to the vice-chancellor, saying there were no inaccuracies in Hansda’s post, and called the assertions made by him a “truthful representation of the cultural and religious traditions of the Adivasi community and their culinary legacies”.
The letter also said, “Adivasis are citizens of India as well. We have a democratic right to follow our cultural and religious traditions like everybody else… If the Central government brings in a law banning cow slaughter, it will end our traditions and religious beliefs”.
Though it is not clear if the university suspended Hansda, “he stopped going to college”, Dasmath Hansdah told HuffPost India.
Hansda was booked under sections 153 (A), 295A, 505 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for insulting religious feelings and attempts to promote enmity between groups of people.