Sunday (15 November) was Jharkhand Foundation Day. On that day in 2000, the state of Jharkhand was formally established through the Bihar State Reorganization Act.
Since independence, a number of new states have been created, but Jharkhand assumes special significance in Indian constitutional history for two reasons: first, it was the result of a decades-long struggle for the political empowerment of tribals in Bihar; second, it fulfilled the demand of the only Adivasi member of the Constituent Assembly: Jaipal Singh Munda.
Born in Ranchi district in present-day Bihar, Munda rose to become the President of the Adivasi Mahasabha: a “pan-tribal and pan-denominational” body created to ameliorate socio-economic backwardness and improve political engagement among tribals. The Mahasabha’s ultimate objective was to carve out a separate tribal-majority province, Jharkhand, from Bihar.
Although the Mahasabha was not part of the political mainstream, it initially enjoyed the support of the Muslim League and later of fringe parties like the Forward Bloc and the Congress Socialist Party. In 1946, the Mahasabha gained some national prominence when Jaipal Munda was elected to the Constituent Assembly, albeit as an independent candidate.
Although Munda did not raise the demand for Jharkhand in the Assembly, he did advocate for the empowerment of tribals through constitutional means such as reservations in Provincial Legislatures.
In 1949, the Adivasi Mahasabha renamed itself as the Jharkhand Party and admitted non-tribals into its fold to increase popular support for its demands. It was compelled to do this for one reason: while 90% of Bihar’s tribal population lived in the region, mass migration meant that tribals were no longer in the majority of the area. While the demand for Jharkhand persisted, if it was to be politically feasible, the Party would need to mobilize the support of non-tribal residents.
On behalf of the Jharkhand Party, Munda submitted a memorandum to the States Reorganisation Commission of 1953, which had been constituted to redraw state boundaries. Although tribals were no longer in the majority in the area, the memorandum reiterated that the demand for Jharkhand was borne out of a desire to empower tribals.
The Commission rejected the demand for Jharkhand primarily because it had adopted the policy of organising states on linguistic lines, and there was no single language to unite the residents of the proposed state. It also pointed out that tribals only constituted one-third of the area’s population, and that the issue could not be decided on the basis of minority demands.
The Jharkhand Party’s subsequent decline in political prominence was attributed to its failure to convince the Commission to create a new state. However, Munda continued to have an important role in Bihari politics, and was appointed as a minister in K.B. Sahay’s cabinet after the Jharkhand Party merged with the Congress. After Munda’s death in 1970, the Jharkhand Party splintered into several different factions, each of which continued to voice the demand for a new state.
In 2000, the BJP-led Central Government exercised its powers under Article 3 of the Constitution to create the state of Jharkhand. However, it is interesting to note that although the movement for Jharkhand was centred on the empowerment of tribals by the creation of a tribal state, only 26.7% of the state’s population belongs to the Scheduled Tribes.
Assembly Member Biography: Jaipal Singh Munda
Debate Summary:Article 3
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