CM Hemant Soren takes dig at PM Modi during Jharkhand Foundation Day visit

Hemant Soren said PM Modi’s visit to Birsa Munda’s birthplace might be his first but is a common affair for the people of Jharkhand

Updated - November 16, 2023 11:08 am IST

Published - November 16, 2023 10:02 am IST - Patna/New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren during ‘Janjatiya Gaurav Divas’ and Jharkhand Foundation Day celebrations, in Khunti district, Wednesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren during ‘Janjatiya Gaurav Divas’ and Jharkhand Foundation Day celebrations, in Khunti district, Wednesday. | Photo Credit: PTI

Sparks flew in Jharkhand’s Ulihatu village on Wednesday when Chief Minister Hemant Soren took digs at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was visiting Jharkhand on its Foundation Day, also to mark the birth anniversary of tribal icon Birsa Munda, celebrated as the Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas for the last three years.

Mr. Soren took potshots at the Prime Minister’s visit to the birthplace of Birsa Munda; the visit was promoted by the government as a first by any PM. Mr. Soren, who heads the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, which is an Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance ally, said, “It is a great thing that the PM has made it to Ulihatu on his first visit. For us, though it is a normal course of events, and we often keep visiting this hallowed place.”

In his remarks, Mr. Soren said it was unfortunate that the tribals had not yet gotten their rights. He further added that for all the talk of last mile connectivity for essential government schemes, it has not often progressed beyond mere headlines.

“The tribal society has been fighting for its rights for centuries. Whether it was with the British or with moneyed interests the fight goes one; it is unfortunate that till date tribal society has not got its proper place in the larger society. The scheme that is being started today is for the most backward people of our own society. To make it work for its intended end is a challenge for all of us,” Mr. Soren said.

During his address shortly after, PM Modi noted that his government had been working to bring essential services to the most backward regions of the country, many of which were in Jharkhand. He went on to list a host of milestones that the Centre had achieved in Jharkhand, and asked the State government to work in tandem with the Central government for the betterment of all people.

“It is my pleasure to announce on the Foundation Day of Jharkhand that the State has achieved 100% electrification of Railways,” Mr. Modi added, saying that both Jharkhand as well as a separate Ministry for Tribal Affairs became a reality only due to the efforts of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance government.

In his address, the Prime Minister said all previous governments had neglected the most backward sections of the society, adding, “I worked for them, I have lived their lives, and I have eaten their salt, and am indebted to them. Today I have come here, to the land of Birsa Munda, to repay that debt. Anyone can draw a line on butter but someone should draw a line on the stone also.”

Mr. Modi added that he was very fortunate to become the first PM to visit Birsa Munda’s birthplace in Ulihatu, where he unveiled a statue of the tribal hero, and emphasised his government’s efforts to build tribal freedom fighter museums all over the country, including in Jharkhand. “Just one year ago, on this day, I dedicated the Bhagwan Birsa Munda Memorial Park cum Freedom Fighter Museum in Ranchi to the nation,” the PM said.

PM Modi stressed on the Hindi name for the scheme, which employs the term adivasi. This holds significance, especially with the adivasi/vanvasi/janjatiya terminological contradistinction catching on, particularly among the Opposition parties, as a way to resist Hinduisation of the tribals.

While presenting the name of the scheme in Hindi - the Pradhan Mantri Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyaan - Mr. Modi, stressed on the expression “adivasi nyaya” three times, whereas Mr. Soren was careful to avoid using any other term than “adivasi” during his remarks. He also made a plea for the PM to expeditiously decide the long-standing demand for a Sarna religious code for tribespeople, stressing their worship had nothing to do with Hinduism.

In his address, Mr. Soren also notably requested the Prime Minister to take cognisance of the displacement of tribal persons in the State due to mining operations in forested areas.

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