By Gladson Dungdung
On 19 September, 2012, it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon when Mangra Oraon along with his son Kishor and cousin sister Suryamani reached to the Civil Court, Ranchi with the prime goal to reclaim his entitlement on 1.41 acres of land, which is grabbed unconstitutionally and illegally by Vasavi Bose alias Vasavi Kiro, member of the Jharkhand State Women Commission and Journalist turned social activist of Jharkhand. Magra comes from a village called Kotari, which is situated in the forest near Burmu Police station, at a distance of 40 kilometres from Ranchi, the capital city of Jharkhand. It was pick hour of harvesting, but Mangra had no option than stopping his agriculture activities and visit the Court to save his land. It was Mangra’s first experience dealing with the lawyer in the Court, but he was confident about what he wanted to do.
Finally, Mangra filed an affidavit, which reads as follows – ‘Vasavi told me that she comes from the Oraon tribal community, and asked me for some patches of land for the ‘Torang Trust’. She promised me that she would use my land for the welfare of the tribal community and give me a job along with the price of my land. Hence, I handed over her 1.41 acres of land. Meanwhile, she asked me to sign on a blank paper, which she submitted to the court and got the permission to transfer the ownership right of my land in her name instead of ‘Torang Trust’. However, when I came to know the truth, I didn’t transfer the ownership rights. Meanwhile, she lured and also abused me. Now, I don’t want to sell my land to Vasavi anymore, because she has cheated on me. She is a non-tribal woman but declared herself as a tribal woman through the false documents, which is a crime’.
Indeed, this is one of the unique cases of land grab therefore; we must understand it thoroughly. There are thousand and thousand of Mangras in Jharkhand, whose lands are being grabbed by the use of different ways and means. Mangra Oraon’s 1.41 acres of land were unconstitutionally and illegally grabbed by none other than Vasavi Kiro alias Vasavi Bose, who keeps claiming of being the voice of the Adivasis. It’s very interesting to know that firstly, Vasavi trapped Mangra Oraon by showing that she was willing to work for the welfare of the tribal people of Burmu block. Hence, she was able to grab 1.41 acres of land at the rate of merely Rs. 450 per decimal. Thereafter, she started coining herself as a member of the tribal community legally through trust deed and affidavit so that she could transfer the ownership rights in her name. Finally, she applied in the court for land transfer and constructed a house on the land, where she runs the office of Torang Trust. She is secretary of the trust and the National Commission for Women, New Delhi also provides financial support to the Trust. What a trick she played!
1. Vasavi is a daughter of three fathers: It may be hard to believe that one person would have three biological fathers. But Vasavi Bose alias Vasavi Kiro is a daughter of three official biological fathers. According to the record of Ursuline Convent Girls High School, Ranchi and Bihar Secondary School Examination Board, Patna, Vasavi’s original name is Vasavi Bose daughter of Prafullo Bose resident of Tharpakhana, Ranchi, where she resides even today. However, according to the affidavit made on 31 October, 2007, Vasavi has claimed of being a member of the Oraon tribe. It is written in the affidavit that Vasavi daugther of Praful Kumar (Oraon) and resident of Kotari village of Burmu police station of Ranchi district.
Similarly, a social institution called “Torang Trust” was registered on 19 November, 2005, under the Indian Trust Act 1882, where Vasavi’s name is mentioned as Vasavi Kujur daughter of Bhola Kujur resident of Kotari comes under Burmu Police Station. Thus, Vasavi has changed her surname and father’s name several times to prove herself as a member of the tribal community with the intention to buy the tribal land and also bag most of the benefits with the tribal tag. Hence, her names read like Vasavi Bose, Vasavi Kujur, Vasavi Bhagat and Vasavi Kiro, and her fathers are late Prafullo Bose, late Praful Kumar (Oraon) and Mr. Bhola Kujur. The most interesting thing is neither Praful Kumar (Oraon) nor Bhola Kujur ever existed at Kotari village. Can a journalist or social activist do like this?
2. Violation of the Indian Constitution: According to the Indian Constitution Article 342 (1) the President after consultation with the Governor, by public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within tribes or tribal communities which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State. Secondly, the Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Tribes specified in a notification issued under clause (1) any tribe or tribal community or part of or group within any tribe or tribal community, but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification. However, Vasavi Bose alias Vasavi Kiro declared herself as a member of Oraon tribe community through an affidavit, which is a clear case of violation of the Indian Constitution. Is Vasavi Bose above the Constitution? Can anybody be allowed to bypass the Indian Constitution? And why the Indian state has failed to take action against such people?
In fact, Vasavi Bose is a daughter of tribal mother and Bengali father. In that case can she claim for the tribal status? The Supreme Court has said in the cases of Valsamma Paul v. Cochin University and others, (1996) 3 SCC 545 followed by Punit Rai v. Dinesh Chaudhary, (2003) 8 SCC 204 and Anjan Kumar v. Union of India and others, (2006) 3 SCC 257 that the offspring of an inter caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal would take his/her caste from the father. Hence, the offshoots of the wedlock of a tribal woman married to a non-tribal husband cannot claim Scheduled Tribe status. Therefore, Vasavi Bose cannot claim for the tribal status. Hence, she should not be given any benefit as a member of the tribal community.
However, while providing safe guard to the offspring of tribal mother and non-tribal father, the Supreme Court said on 18 January, 2012 Rameshbhai Dabhai Naika versus State of Gujarat & Others S.L.P (CIVIL) NO.4282 of 2010) that in view of the analysis of the earlier decisions on a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal the determination of the caste of the offspring is essentially a question of fact to be decided on the basis of the facts adduced in each case. The determination of caste of a person born of an inter-caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal cannot be determined in complete disregard of attending facts of the case. In an inter caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal there may be a presumption that the child has the caste of the father. This presumption may be stronger in the case where in the inter caste marriage or a marriage between a tribal and a non-tribal the husband belongs to a forward caste.
The Supreme Court further said that by no means the presumption is conclusive or irrebuttable and it is open to the child of such marriage to lead evidence to show that he/she was brought up by the mother who belonged to the scheduled caste/scheduled tribe. By virtue of being the son of a forward caste father he did not have any advantageous start in life but on the contrary suffered the deprivations, indignities, humilities and handicaps like any other member of the community to which his/her mother belonged. Additionally, that he was always treated a member of the community to which her mother belonged not only by that community but by people outside the community as well. However, this judgement is also not applicable in the case of Vasavi Bose. Precisely, because she lived with his father Prafullo Bose at Thalpakhana, Ranchi and enjoyed as a member of Bengali community at the start of her life. She has seven brothers who use the surname as “Bose”. Hence, the act of Vasavi Bose is completely unconstitutional and against the judgement of the Supreme Court.
3. Non-Tribal woman cannot enjoy tribal status: Indeed, Vasavi Bose is a non-tribal woman who has married to a tribal man (Santosh Kiro). In this situation, can she claim for the tribal status? In fact, whenever the inter-caste marriage takes place, the woman takes on the caste of her husband. The Supreme Court proceeded to consider the next question which was, “whether a lady marrying a Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe or OBC citizen, or one transplanted by adoption or any other voluntary act, ipso facto, becomes entitled to claim reservation under Article 15(4) or 16(4) as the case may be?” In Murlidhar Dayandeo Kesekar v. Vishwanath Pandu Barde 1995 supp. (2) SCC 549 and R. Chandevarappa v. State of Karnataka (1995) 6 SCC 309: JT (1995) 7 SC 93, the Supreme Court has said that economic empowerment is a fundamental right to the poor and the State is enjoined under Articles 15(3), 46 and 39 to provide them opportunities. Thus, education, employment and economic empowerment are some of the programmes the State has evolved and also provided reservation in admission into educational institutions, or in case of other economic benefits under Articles 15(4) and 46, or in appointment to an office or a post under the State under Article 16(4).
Therefore, when a member is transplanted into the Dalits, Tribes and OBCs, he/she must of necessity also have had undergone the same handicaps, and must have been subjected to the same disabilities, disadvantages, indignities or sufferings so as to entitle the candidate to avail the facility of reservation. A candidate who had the advantageous start in life being born in Forward Caste and had march of advantageous life but is transplanted in Backward Caste by adoption or marriage or conversion, does not become eligible to the benefit of reservation either under Article 15(4) or 16(4). Acquisition of the status of Scheduled Caste etc. by voluntary mobility into these categories would play fraud on the Constitution, and would frustrate the benign constitutional policy under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution. Hence, under this judgement too, Vasavi Bose alias Vasavi Kiro cannot claim the tribal status for marrying the tribal man.
4. Violation of the CNT Act 1908: According to the section – 46 (1) (a) of the Chhota Nagpur Tenancy Act 1908, an occupancy-Raiyat who is a member of the Scheduled Tribes may transfer with the previous sanction of the Deputy Commissioner his right in his holding or a portion of his holding by sale, exchange, gift or will to another person who is a member of the Scheduled Tribas and who is a resident within the local limits of the area of the police-station within which the holding is situate. Of course, Vasavi Bose is a non-tribal woman, comes from Tharpakhna of Lower Bazar Police station in Ranchi the capital city of Jharkhand. But she illegally bought 2.99 acre of tribal land. According to the investigation report of the Circre Officer (CO), Burmu, Vasavi Orien is a daughter of late Praful Kumar (Oraon) resident of Kotari village comes under Burmu police station in Ranchi district. The Circle Officer (CO) further writes that Vasavi owns 1.55 acres of land elsewhere and comes from the Oraon tribal community of Kotari village. Hence, 1.41 acres of land of Mangra Oraon can be transferred in her name, which does not violate the rights of land owner in any manner. Thus, Vasavi Bose became the owner of 2.99 acres of tribal land, which is a gross violation of the Chhota Nagpur Tenancy Act, 1908. Therefore, the land should be returned to the original land owners.
5. Deputy Commissioner defies the Law: According to the section – 46 (1) (a) of the Chhota Nagpur Tenancy Act 1908, an occupancy-Raiyat, who is a member of the Scheduled Tribes may transfer his land with the previous sanction of the Deputy Commissioner. Despite having such a strong land law, a non-tribal woman Vasavi Bose could able to transfer 2.99 acres of tribal land in her name. How? According to the investigation report of the Circle Officer (CO), Burmu, Vasavi owns 1.55 acres of land elsewhere and comes from the Oraon tribal community of Kotari village, which comes under Burmu police station of Ranchi district. Hence, she is given permission to transfer 1.44 acres of land of Mangra Oraon. On the basis of this report, the Deputy Commissioner also ordered for the land transfer. Is CO and DC influence by someone?
The victim of this saga of land grab, Mangra, claims that fake legal papers were made in the court and the permission for transfer of his 1.41 acres of land was given on that basis. He questions that how the affidavit and other legal papers were prepared in his name in the court, without his presence in the court? The illegal land grab is not uncommon in Jharkhand. The history of last three centuries is full of land grab and mass struggle against it. But the saga of Mangra is unique because the land grabber is not other than the so-called guard of the tribals. Secondly, the land was grabbed in the name of welfare of the tribals and thirdly, three editors of the leading media groups denied carrying the story of an unconstitutional and illegal land grab in their daily news papers. Can you imagine how powerful the land grabber is? Will Mangra be able to fight against such powerful lobby? Can government take legal action against Vasavi Bose for violating the Indian Constitution? Will Government take any action against the Circle Officer and the Deputy Commissioner for defying the Constitution and Laws? And the most important question, which may remain unanswered, is will Mangra get back his land?
Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and General Secretary of Jharkhand Human Rights Movement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org