Probe ordered as poor tribal women bare themselves in protest

Patna: Authorities have ordered an investigation after a group of poor, displaced tribal women stripped naked in Jharkhand recently to protest against the denial of jobs to their family members even five decades after acquiring their lands to set up a power project.

Officials took action after the photographs of the middle-aged women, who used only placards to cover themselves, went viral on social media. The photographs were reportedly uploaded by tribal leader Ramashray Singh, in an apparent bid to exert pressure on the government but the move took a different turn when women rights groups took to the streets demanding action against him, terming his action an insult to women.

Police officers were forced to act after a team of the State Women Commission, led by chairman Kalyani Sharan, called on them and sought the immediate arrest of the leader.

“Women should not be insulted in the name of agitation. Strict action should be initiated against those who did this lowly act,” Saharan said.

A manhunt is on to find and arrest Singh.

The poor tribal women had stripped themselves naked after being convinced by the tribal leader who promised to send the photographs to the President and the Prime Minister of India, saying that they would make an impact and force their long-pending demands to be met. However, the protesters were shocked to find that these photographs had instead been uploaded onto the internet.

“I had staged the nude protest as I believed my son can get a job with DVC [Damodar Valley Corporation] if the authorities are shocked enough by our sense of hurt. I was told that these photographs would be sent only to the government but am shocked to know that these photographs have come on the internet,” Bahamuni Hembrum said.

Another protester, Mangoli Hembrom, said they felt cheated by Singh’s act. “We all were taken into confidence and promised that these [pictures] would be sent only to the President and the PM only but made public. We are shocked,” she added.

A total of 15,378 hectares of land from 240 villages were acquired in 1956 by the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) from the protesters. DVC operates thermal and hydel power stations in Jharkhand and West Bengal. The victims had been promised jobs and compensation at the time, but those promises are yet to be met.

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