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Why Two Years Later And Right After Elections?: Many Question Arrest Of Jeetrai Hansda For Facebook Post On Adivasis’ Right To Eat Beef

Hansda's lawyer feels he was arrested after the 2019 elections so that the BJP would not lose the support of Adivasi voters in the region.

Several Tribal folks and minority rights activists have come forth in support of Santhali artist-activist and theatre professor Jeetrai Hansda after he was arrested on May 25, for a two-year-old Facebook post. Hansda, who resides in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, had defended the right of Adivasis to eat beef.

Animesh Bisoee writing for The Telegraph reported that many wondered why Hansda was arrested almost two years after putting up his Facebook post, but barely two days after the election results when people handed the Bharatiya Janata Party a resounding second mandate.

Hansda had posted on Facebook, “If you (Centre) really consider Adivasis to be a part of India, then protect their rights and stop making (cow slaughter) laws such as these.”

Jharkhand had passed the cow slaughter law in 2005 (The Jharkhand Bovine Animal Prohibition of Slaughter Act 2005), but the Raghubar Das government is now enforcing it strictly under the patronage of the BJP, both at the Centre and state level.

This has lead to aggressive ‘gau raksha’, including the lynching of beef traders, suspected or otherwise. The law goes against the very grain of Muslim and Tribal livelihood.

Santhal politician Surya Singh Besra told The Telegraph, “I had also said cow sacrifice was an integral part of Santhal culture. Tribals do consume beef after the rituals of Jaher Dangri. But activists of Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad had lodged a case against me at Mahuatand. Fortunately, I managed to obtain an anticipatory bail from Jharkhand High Court on April 3.”

Besra, a lawyer from Ranchi University reportedly said, “I want to say Jeetrai (Hansda) is not alone, tribals are with him, we will fight rightwing forces and launch an agitation against the arrest.”

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A Ho tribal youth named Raimul Bandra questioned the timing of Hansda’s arrest. Bandra who studies law at Banaras Hindu University wondered how Hansda could attend public meetings and hold lectures as a part-time faculty member in colleges “all this while” without being arrested.

Bandra told The Telegraph, “We have told governor Droupadi Murmu that a ban on cow slaughter should not be implemented in Fifth Schedule areas of Jharkhand as it is in conflict with traditional practices of natives. Not only Santhals but even Mundas perform cattle sacrifice ritually.”

Hansda’s lawyer, who belongs to the Kurmi tribe suspects that he was arrested after the 2019 elections so that the BJP would not lose the support of Adivasi voters in the region. The lawyer said that his client was in Ghaghidih central jail, he would file a regular bail application with the district judge on Tuesday, May 28.

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