In an emotionally charged speech in the Assembly just before the big majority test, jailed Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Hemant Soren said he would not shed tears today because the tears of tribals and backward sections do not matter.
Mr Soren, facing allegations of money laundering, resigned as Chief Minister on January 31. He was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate soon after. Backed by MLAs from JMM, the Congress and other allies, Mr Soren’s close aide Champai Soren has taken the oath as Chief Minister. He faces the majority test in the Assembly shortly.
Addressing the Assembly, Hemant Soren said Champai Soren has the full support of the JMM-led alliance. Targeting the BJP-led central government over his arrest, he referred to a night of January 31 as a “dark chapter” in the country’s democracy. Bringing a serious allegation against the Governor’s office, he alleged that Raj Bhavan “was also involved” in the events leading to his arrest.
Mr Soren said the alleged conspiracy to arrest him was in the works for long. “It was being cooked over a low flame. This was executed in a well-planned manner,” he said.
Invoking Dalit icon BR Ambedkar, Mr Soren flagged atrocities against backward sections. “What happened on January 31 was another example of that. The ruling dispensation’s hatred towards these communities (is on display),” he said.
The former Chief Minister said he is at a loss to understand the source of this hatred. “Someone close to them does not even hesitate to say that we (tribals) must continue to live in the jungle. We left the jungle, came and sat next to them and their clothes are soiled. They see us as untouchables. If left to them, we would be back in the jungle,” he said. “They have a problem that I travel on planes, they have a problem that I stay in five-star hotels, ride a BMW,” he said.
The remarks were an apparent response to comments made by a section of media that had suggested that Hemant Soren’s stay in jail would remind him of a “stay in the jungle as an Adivasi 20 years back”. The remarks have drawn a sharp response from JMM and other tribal outfits.
Mr Soren said he has not accepted defeat. “They feel they will be successful in their machinations. But this is Jharkhand, a state where tribals and Dalits have made sacrifices,” he said.
Mr Soren said the central agencies cannot do anything to those who stole crores and fled abroad. “What they can do is target tribals and innocents,” he said.
He dared the BJP to show proof that the 8.5 acre plot, which is at the centre of the case against him, is registered in his name. “If they can show that, I will quit politics,” he said. “I will not cry because the tears of tribals do not matter to you. At the right time, I will respond to their every conspiracy,” he said.
Mr Soren also targeted BJP leaders from Jharkhand “who bow before those with feudal mindset”. “It has been 24 years since Jharkhand was formed. Which party was in power for the longest time? All corruption started in 2019?”
“They do not want tribals to rise. They do not want us to become judges, IPS or IAS officers. They do not want us to become leaders,” he said, adding that he knew that hurdles will be created to ensure that he does not complete his five-year term.