For tribal activist Dayamani Barla, facing police cases is nothing new. She has been in jail since October 16 for taking part in demonstrations backing the poor and farmers of Jharkhand.

On Monday, Ms. Barla was produced in the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) court here on criminal charges for allegedly participating in a demonstration organised by Jharkhand Dishom Party leader Salkhan Murmu on October 4 in which JDM workers were accused of burning an effigy of the Jharkhand High Court. This is the third time Ms. Barla, a celebrated activist and journalist, was accused in a criminal case by the Jharkhand police in the last six weeks.

She has been in jail since October 16 when she surrendered after the CJM court issued a property warrant against her for leading a demonstration demanding MGNREGS job cards and unemployment allowance for villagers in the Angada block in Ranchi district in 2006.

On October 19, she got bail in the 2006 case. But she was arrested in a second case for allegedly ploughing government land this August in Nagri village, 15 km from Ranchi, where farmers have been protesting against the Jharkhand government’s acquisition of their land for building campuses of the Indian Institute of Management, the Indian Institute of Information Technology and the National University of Study & Research in Law (NUSRL).

“If I demand a MNREGA card, they issue a property warrant against me. If we demand our land, water, forests, Jharkhand government says we are a danger to the State. Is this the freedom leaders like Birsa Munda fought for,” asked Ms. Barla, 48.

“I gave the jail authorities a request for some books on Jharkhand’s independence movement. I requested that I may be given food suitable to diabetes patients but they do not listen.”

“Dayamani knows what it is to be poor and the struggles of the poor. That is why the government thinks she is the biggest obstacle to this State’s ‘development’,” said her husband Nelson Barla, who was present at the court. Ms. Barla’s request to attend the funeral of her sister-in-law, who died on Sunday, was denied.

When The Hindu asked the DGP concerned about the cases against Ms. Barla, he declined to comment.

Activist and journalist Dayamani Barla has been leading the agitation of Nagri farmers near Ranchi since 2010. Their demand is that universities be allotted alternative space for their campuses instead of their fertile paddy land. The Jharkhand government has acquired their land for building campuses of the Indian Institute of Management, the Indian Institute of Information Technology and the National University of Study & Research in Law (NUSRL).

Between March and June, the villagers sat on a peaceful protest on their fields. In July, when the government started building a boundary wall on the proposed campuses, the farmers demolished the wall.

In September, a Jharkhand court directed the State government to secure the university’s construction against obstruction by the locals. Opposing this order, Jharkhand Dishom Party organised a demonstration on October 4 in which Ms. Barla is alleged to have took part.

Six students of NUSRL, who are the intervener-petitioners in the case against Ms. Barla in a Jharkhand court, have submitted that the land acquired in Nagri is Tarn II variety soil which is “least fertile” and questioned the farmers claim that the land yields enough foodgrains to support a family through a year. The Jharkhand High Court, in its order of September 11, accepted the students’ research. Academics, however, dispute their claim.

“They have underestimated the fertility of the land in Nagri which lies by the Jumar river and on which farmers have improved productivity by building bunds. Also, Tarn II soil is medium fertility land not least fertility. It yields 950 to 1800 kg rice per acre, much higher than the data cited by NUSRL,” said economist and Reader at Ranchi University Ramesh Sharan.

According to scientists at Birsa Agricultural University, only 15 per cent of land in Jharkhand supports more than one crop and Nagri village is one such area that supports hybrid paddy, wheat, gram and vegetables.

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