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Congress, Christian missionaries and machinery: When the minister is the encroacher, who will save tribals – Ground report from Chhattisgarh

Pahadi Korba's 24.88 acres of property in Harrapath was illegally registered in the name of Ashish Bhagat, son of Amarjeet Bhagat, the state's Food and Culture Minister.

Pahadi Korba, belonging to the Scheduled Tribes, are referred to as the President of India’s ‘adopted children’. Agriculture and animal husbandry are their primary sources of income. In Chhattisgarh, this tribal community committed to Sanatan Dharma struggles to save its homeland.

“Korba and Nagesia are tribes with little to no conversion,” manager Ram Bhagat told OpIndia. “The Churches exert pressure on them in a variety of ways, but they are adamant that they will survive by eating roots, fruits, and flowers but would not convert. However, their properties are now being taken over as part of a conspiracy,” said Bhagat, who now serves as the vice-president of the Jashpur District BJP Tribal Morcha (BJP ST Morcha). He is also the District Vice President of the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram’s Sarhul Puja Committee.

Pahadi Korba.

To understand the threat Bhagat is referring to, we travelled to the village of Harrapath. This village is located in the Manora Block of Chhattisgarh’s Jashpur District, which borders Jharkhand. Pahari Korba dwells in this settlement beside the road. Except for a few Yadav houses, the majority of the population is tribal.

In a conversation with OpIndia, Nandkumar Yadav of Harrapath, who claims to be affiliated with the BJP, stated, “The people of the tribal class who dwell in this village are the adherents of Hindu Sanatan culture.  However, with the arrival of the Congress government, Christian missionaries have been attempting to convert people here as well. They are deceiving people. They were also seizing the land of Pahadi Korba in my village to build a cathedral.”

Pahadi Korba’s 24.88 acres of property in Harrapath was illegally registered in the name of Ashish Bhagat, son of Amarjeet Bhagat, the state’s Food and Culture Minister. Bhagat was also the minister in charge of Jashpur at the time of the scam.

Lal Sai Ram is one of those whose land was lost as a result of this deception. “That entire land (approximately 25 acres) belongs to our ancestors,” he told OpIndia. “We have several family members involved in this. We were transported to Jashpur under the guise of obtaining a government grant. They received our approval and signed some documents there. We just found out about the land transaction when the patwari arrived to measure it,” he further said.

Pahadi Korba Lal Sai’s house and BJYM leader Nitin Rai

When they learned about the land transaction through the patwari, the family proceeded to the home of local BJP politician Krishna Kumar Rai with a cheque. Rai held the position of minister in the preceding Raman Singh cabinet. “We have an attachment to these villages since our forefathers,” Rai’s nephew and BJYM’s Surguja division in-charge Nitin Rai told OpIndia.

“These individuals presented us with cheques. When we investigated, we discovered that Amarjit Bhagat, the minister in charge here, had purchased land in the name of his son by duping the tribals. In this scenario, the brokers informed them that a mighty minister has taken their property and nobody can take the land back. We were ignored by the district administration. We then took these individuals to Governor Anusuiya Uikey. As the conflict escalated, Amarjit Bhagat was forced to return the land,” Rai further added.

According to Nitin Rai, Christian missionaries are also occupying Pahadi Korba lands. Bhuneshwar Ram is the Korba of this village (Harrapath), and there was an effort to seize his land as well. This case is also ongoing. Bhuneshwar showed OpIndia his acreage next to the road, which is still under construction. He informed us that Ghuda Ekka and Daya Kujur were occupying their property. When he chased them away, the work came to a halt.  “These folks have become Christians. They wanted to construct a cathedral here. When BJP leader Prabal Pratap Singh Judeo interfered in this matter, the administration took action in the matter”, he said.

Construction on the plot of Bhuneshwar Ram.

These are the Pahadi Korba-related issues that have come to light, whether in the case of Lal Sai or Bhuneshwar Ram. Due to political pressure, the tribal class’s land was eventually spared. Hundreds of similar examples of fraudulent land registration of Scheduled Tribes have been documented. “The brokers are keeping a careful check on the lands here,” Nitin Rai told OpIndia. Bauxite is the explanation behind this. Thousands of acres of land in Pandara Pat’s Garden region have been fraudulently registered. If it is checked, all of the property of Pahadi Korba can be restored.

The questions don’t end with Amarjit Bhagat handing over the land. His misdeeds are not wiped away by his removal as the minister in charge of Jashpur.  The regulation states that the judge must provide this information prior to purchasing the property. Was this done by his son Ashish Bhagat? In this case, people who acted as brokers and identified as Congress employees, was any action taken against them? Was Amarjit Bhagat’s friendship with them investigated? When it came to surrendering the land, Amarjit Bhagat maintained that the regulations were followed in this transaction.

The Pahadi Korba, on the other hand, is a protected tribe. Even other tribes cannot purchase their land. So, how did Amarjeet Bhagat’s son, from the Oraon tribe, manage to do this? Obviously, there was administrative complicity in this deal as well. However, after a year, no action has been taken against any officer in this incident. After all, what is the ‘qualification’ that keeps Amarjit Bhagat in Bhupesh Baghel’s cabinet even today? The answers to these questions are yet to be uncovered.

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