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country and people

Located on the eastern edge of central India, Jharkhand extends over an area of ​​74,677 square kilometers, which roughly corresponds to the area of ​​the Czech Republic. The west-east axis extends over a length of approx. 460 km while the north-south extension measures almost 380 km. In the north, this youngest of the 28 Indian Union states borders on Bihar, from which it was split off on November 15, 2000 (see below). West Bengal borders on Jharkhand in the east, Orissa in the south and Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh in the west. While the Son River borders the Garwa and Palamu districts in the northwest, the Ganges on the northeast flank - in the Sahibganj district - forms the natural dividing line.

Map by Jharkhand. Photo: Eric Töpfer

Jharkhand - which means "woodland" - is made up of the regions Palamu (in the west), Santhal Pargana (the geographically northeastern wing) and the approximately 540 million year old highlands of Chotanagpur. This collective term for the plateaus of Ranchi, Hazaribagh and Kodarma covers over 85 percent of the territory. With its approx. 65,500 square kilometers, it is one of the most mineral-rich regions in India. The largest of the plateaus, that of Ranchi, is at an average altitude of 700 meters. The entire plateau is crossed by numerous rivers. Because of the erosion, there are individual mountains and isolated mountain ranges. The seemingly lost 1,365 meter high Mount Parasnath - which has an important religious role in Jainism - is the highest point.

At the time of the last census in 2001, Jharkhand had 22 districts of widely varying sizes and populations. While in the Ranchi district with its 2.7 million inhabitants, more than 10 percent of the total population are counted, in the neighboring district to the west of Lohardaga there are just over 360,000 inhabitants. The district town of Ranchi is also the seat of government and the state capital of the Union state, which has a population of just over 27 million. According to the size of the population, it ranks thirteenth nationally. From 1991 to 2001 the population grew by 23 percent. The average population density is 338 people per square kilometer.

Districts (2001): 1 Sahibganj, 2 Godda, 3 Pakur, 4 Dumka, 5 Deoghar, 6 Jamtara, 7 Dhanbad, 8 Giridih, 9 Kodarma, 10 Hazaribagh, 11 Bokaro, 12 Ranchi, 13 Saraikela-Kharsawan, 14 East Singhbhum, 15 West Singhbhum, 16 Simdega, 17 Gumla, 18 Lohardaga, 19 Latehar, 20 Chatra, 21 Palamu, 22 Garwa. Photo: Christoph S. Sprung

The over 32,000 villages and a few cities are mostly concentrated on the river valleys or are located in the unforested plains and the mineral-rich and industrialized belt of the Damodar Valley. Less than five percent of the total area is designated as urban areas. Although there is not yet a city with a population over one million, the population of Ranchi (an estimated 897,000 in 2004), Jamshedpur (604,000) and Bokaro (418,000), Dhanbad (211,000) and Hazaribagh (135,000) are well over a hundred thousand . An estimated 1.2 million people live in the greater Jamshedpur area.

Hindus are the largest religious group ahead of Muslims (18 percent - predominantly Sunnis) and Christians. Information about a more precise composition of the population groups is politically extremely sensitive. Official figures should therefore be treated with caution. The proportion of the population group formerly known as untouchables, the Dalits (the "broken ones"), who are classified by the government as Scheduled Castes, is 15-20 percent.

At around 27 percent, at least a quarter of the population belong to the indigenous population known as Adivasi, which is divided into over 30 ethnic groups recognized by the state as Scheduled Tribes (Mullick 2003). They live mainly in the districts of Ranchi, (East and West) Singhbhum, and Dumka (Santhal Pargana). The Santhal and Oraon are the numerically largest "tribes". It is said that the Munda were the first group to colonize the region (see below). Together with the Ho, these ethnic groups make up four fifths of the Adivasi population of Jharkhand. In contrast to earlier times, however, they hardly live in the forest and from its products.

The majority of the Adivasi outside the Hindu caste hierarchy see themselves as Hindus. A few are Christians. There are Adivasi who practice animistic rites. Nevertheless, only the majority of the tribal members of the Ho follow an animistic belief. The Kharia are the only tribe that is predominantly Christian. However, Christianity is also widespread among the Mundas and Oraons.

With a gender ratio of 941 women per 1,000 men, Jharkhand is just above the shockingly low national average of 933 women.

Illiteracy is widespread. The literacy rate of 54 percent - for women under 40 percent (!) - is the second lowest of all Indian Union states after that of the brother state Bihar, where an average of 65 percent can read and write.

Hindi is the official language of the country. Jharkhand is located on the eastern edge of the so-called Hindi language belt. Other dialects used are Santhali, Mundari, and Ho with Australian-Asian origins, while Oraon has Dravidian roots. Due to immigration from neighboring countries, Bengali is also spoken in some places.

Despite the strong agriculture that has been practiced for centuries, up to a quarter of the original vegetation has been preserved. Overall, less than half of the soils are cultivated. The only ten percent wooded area consists largely of tropical deciduous forests (for comparison: in 1949 it was 63 percent). A few areas in the extreme northeast of the state are overgrown with evergreen tropical plants.

The most important rivers are the Son and Ganges, the Damodar, the North Koel, the South Koel and the Subarnarekha, which flows through Ranchi and Jamshedpur.

While the average summer temperature (in July) rarely exceeds 35 ° C, the temperature in winter (January) hardly drops below 15-20 ° C. The southwest monsoon in particular provides the rain required for agriculture. The northeast monsoon in late autumn does not matter. The average rainfall is 100-200 cm per year.

Economy and Infrastructure

Jharkhand, which is still strongly feudal, is one of the poorest states in India. The annual average per capita income, which was around 4,200 rupees (around 72 euros) in 2001, is well below the national average of around 20,000 rupees. An unskilled worker receives around 60 rupees (around 1 euro) for a ten-hour working day. Contrary to traditional beliefs, women who earn far less than men often work out of great need.

More than two thirds of those over 15 years of age contribute to the income of their families (Balakrishnan 2004: 21). 74 percent of the Adivasi population lives below the international poverty line with an income of less than one US dollar per day (Icke-Schwalbe 2003). The widespread poverty is obviously the background for the persistently strong migration to other, economically better off Union states.

The development level of all districts is well below the Indian average. [1] This is reflected in the very poor infrastructure. For example, less than a quarter of all villages have electricity. Drinking water is a very scarce resource. Even in the electrified areas, power outages lasting several hours are common every day.

Most of the population lives from agriculture. This is often operated with the simplest means. The most commonly grown cereals are rice, corn, ragi (a type of millet), chickpeas and various vegetables. The main processing of agricultural products includes the cane sugar refinery, silk production, and tobacco and jute processing. In the traditional small businesses, glass and handicrafts such as clay, bronze and works of art are made.

Despite the low wages, high unemployment and widespread poverty, the Chotanagpur region in particular, with its highest concentration of minerals in the country, is extremely important industrially. Most of India's coal reserves are in Jharkhand. [2] The dismantling is carried out by the state Damodar Valley Corporation administered from Hazaribagh. The district town of Dhanbad is the logistical center of coal mining in the region.

The mica deposits in the districts of Kodarma, Hazaribagh and Giridih are considered to be the main source of this mineral worldwide. In addition to the high quality standard, there is a large selection of different types of mica. The district town of Giridih has been the undisputed center for processing and exporting the mineral around the world for decades. Other common minerals that are almost exclusively mined in Jharkhand are copper, limestone, bauxite, iron ore and asbestos.

The steel rolling mill in Bokaro, built with Soviet help at the end of the 1960s, is the largest of its kind in the country. The most important power station is also located there.

The second largest steel mill in India is located in the industrial and iron city of Jamshedpur in the East Singhbhum district. It gets private from the Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO). Because of its close association with the Tata industrial family, Jamshedpur is also often referred to as Tatanagar. [3] Ranchi is through the resident mechanical engineering industry, especially through the state founded in 1958 Heavy Engineering Corporation, also an important industrial location.

The Damodar and some of its tributaries were dammed as early as 1948 to generate electricity and store water. The Damodar project with its dams at Tilaiya, Konar, Maithon and the Panchet Hills was also launched to develop the neighboring states of West Bengal and Bihar.

In addition to numerous train routes of the Northeastern Railway Company (North-Eastern Railways) also runs the main route from Delhi via Patna to Kolkata through Jharkhand. The relatively dense railroad network was created with a view to transporting the raw materials away. Only three districts do not have a train station.

The over 13,000 km long road network (country roads 7,678 km) is quite compact due to several economically important locations, but mostly in poor condition. The over 4,600 km long state and approx. 1,000 km national "highways" are only partially an exception, e.g. the one connecting Delhi with Kolkata Grand Trunk Road. Only a third of all villages are connected to the road network.

The Birsa Munda Airport from Ranchi and the Sonari Aerodrome from Jamshedpur are the only two airports. The state capital has several flights a week from Delhi, Kolkata and Patna.

History and Politics until 1947

The Mundas are considered to be the first settlers of Chotanagpur. Due to their Australian-Asian language, it is assumed that they originally came from Southeast Asia (Thapar / Siddiqi 2003 [1979]). However, according to legends, they immigrated to the region from the north-west (Balakrishnan 2004: 3). Ultimately, however, the Adivasi as a whole are considered to be the indigenous population of the region.

The 10th to 12th centuries were characterized by technical innovation, which above all made it possible to cultivate new land. As a result, non-Adivasis immigrated from today's Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, mainly along the river valleys. In their search for fertile agricultural land, they populated the area in northwestern Jharkhand, also known as Bhagelkhand (Thapar / Siddiqi 2003 [1979]).

In the early 17th century, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, attracted by the wealth of the diamond fields of Khokhara, became aware of the area. By sending his military leader Ibrahim Khan to Chotanagpur, the region came under the influence of the Mughal Empire after 1616, which made tribute to the local prince Durjan Sal. Nevertheless, Chotanagpur remained relatively autonomous for the next two hundred years (Thapar / Siddiqi 2003: 43 [1979]).

However, that changed fundamentally after 1765, when Chotanagpur and parts of Santhal Pargana as part of Bihar came under British sovereignty through the East India Company operating from Bengal. From 1780, the Ramgarh Hill Tract district was established. This consisted of today's central and northern districts as well as some parts of the Gaya district in Bihar.

The establishment of the British administrative system, with its drastic differences from local customs, attracted mainly migrants from what is now Bihar and Bengal to the region. As they were already familiar with the colonial rule of the Europeans, the immigrants pushed their way into the lucrative administrative apparatus. In the further course the districts Ramgarh and Santhal Pargana (consisting essentially of today's Dumka) were founded. Since the late 18th century, the various Adivasi peoples in Chotanagpur, now administered by the British as the South West Frontier Agency, protested against the colonial rulers. In the 19th century there were more revolts, most of which were brutally suppressed by the Europeans and their helpers. The background to the uprisings was the dissatisfaction with the resettlement of areas and the influx of foreign workers. As a result, the indigenous population has been increasingly marginalized since the second half of the 19th century (Bandyopadhyay 2004, Thapar / Siddiqi 2003 [1979]). In addition, many Adivasi were forced into menial jobs in other provinces of British India. In connection with the work of Adivasi, who mostly toiled as "coolies" (porters or unskilled workers) in the tea gardens of Assam, the term "forced labor" is mostly used (Thapar and Siddiqi 2003: 63 [1979]).

The further course of history is characterized by a never-ending immigration. Above all, the mining and the associated expansion of the railroad and other infrastructures at the end of the 19th century caused this influx of non-Adivasi. The original population was more or less systematically robbed of their landed property, which, according to them, represented a collective good, which was incompatible with the capitalist principle of individual private property.

The first efforts for the independence of the Chotanagpur region arose in connection with immigration from the neighboring provinces, which quickly dominated the local population economically and politically (cf. Bandyopadhyay 2004). The influx of Biharis, Bengalis and people from other regions of India is referred to in local historiography as "Swadeshi Colonialism" (internal colonization) (Balakrishnan 2004, Singh 2004). However, the different population groups in Chotanagpur had lived together peacefully as neighbors for centuries and often shared similar values ​​and social practices. The formation of identity and the sharpening of social and ethnic boundaries were driven in particular by the colonial census with its meticulous "mania for order and division".

Christian missionary work since the middle of the 19th century primarily aimed at the Adivasi, who were portrayed as unbelievers (the German Gossner mission, for example, has been active in Chotanagpur since 1845). The Christian churches have succeeded in creating educational institutions across large areas over the past 160 years. Due to the spreading Christianity (cf. Thapar / Siddiqi 2003 [1979]) and the pseudo-ethnological terminology in the colonial age, which had a primarily racist background (cf. Sengupta 2003 [1988]), a strongly emancipatory Adivasi identity was formed out. At the end of the 19th century, the various Adivasi peoples began to differentiate themselves more clearly than before from the caste Indians who later immigrated to the areas. They mostly use the term "Diku" (intruder) to distinguish them.

The demarcation tendencies soon manifested themselves politically. While at first the local organizations, parties and associations hardly differed from interest groups in neighboring provinces, this changed when it became clear that the other groups had no interest in mixing or assimilating with the Adivasi. As a result, for example, the initially regionalist Chotanagpur Unnati Samaj changed its name to Adivasi Mahasabha (Great assembly of the Adivasi) and thus clearly referred to ethnic identities (Sengupta 2003: 337 [1988]).

The disappointing experiences with the brutal suppression of the uprisings in the 19th century and the example of Orissa, which broke away from Bihar in 1936, encouraged many actors to take the parliamentary path towards the realization of a separate state. During the world war that was Adivasi Mahasabha loyal to the colonial administration and played an important role in the recruitment of soldiers (Balakrishnan 2004).

History and Politics since 1947

After the Second World War and India's independence, the 1950s went out Adivasi Mahasabha the Jharkhand party emerged. Since the Adivasi peoples no longer formed a majority in Chotanagpur according to the 1951 census, this party was also an attempt to win over non-Adivasi for one major political goal: Jharkhand alag prant - a separate (union) state of Jharkhand.

With this demand, the party entered the first elections in free India in 1952 and played an important role in the decades that followed. For its part, the ruling Congress Party did everything possible to counter the separation of the region from the state of Bihar. After all, the north of Bihar in particular - where it had its electoral stronghold - benefited from the resource-rich south and its disproportionate tax revenues.

The movement to create Jharkhand has had many ups and downs. Its first leader Jaipal Singh, a Munda, was immobilized by Nehru's Congress Party with a ministerial post and almost the entire leadership was corrupted (Hörig 2000). Jawaharlal Nehru as India's first prime minister had big plans for the young state. Against the background of the hoped-for economic rise, he stylized factories into "temples of modern India". These factories, but also the coal mines, steelworks and dams were - as they were before independence - mostly built on Adivasi land.

The first Prime Minister of Bihar, Dr. S.K. Sinha, even portrayed the efforts to separate the southern part of the country as anti-national and threatened to use force against the separatists. Ignes Kujur, member of the state parliament from 1952-62 Jharkhand party was, summarized the government work of those years as follows: "The only effort Patna made for us was to declare us backwards again." (Kujur 2003 [1986]).

The government in Patna did little to address the causes of the development deficit. For example, Adivasi land was expropriated and the expanding alcohol distilleries were not regulated, although they contributed massively to the devastating alcohol problems of many Adivasi.

According to Kujur, the official policy of the following years was largely to sow discord among the Adivasi by emphasizing differences between different ethnic groups or between Christians and non-Christians. Even manipulated census data served this policy. In addition, the government stated that a separate Chotanagpur was not viable due to the backwardness of its residents and regional underdevelopment (Kujur 2003 [1986]). During the reorganization of the Indian Union states in the 1950s and 60s, the demands of the Jharkhandis were not taken into account.

In addition, the seat reservations for the so-called Scheduled Tribes in the parliaments of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh signaled the Adivasi in southern Bihar that they could participate in power. This led to increased competition for education, work and development. Above all, the non-Christian Adivasi sought political refuge in the Congress Party and the Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Jana Sangh.

As a consequence of the Sino-Indian border war of 1962, the Congress Party put such great pressure on the Jharkhand party from the fact that this finally united with her in 1963 for "national reasons". The corruption of its leadership and the death of Jaipal Singh [4] had created a political vacuum in the party that had weakened it decisively. In addition, voters increasingly saw her as a representative of the interests of the urban elites, who were ignorant of the problems of the rural population. However, the association called with the National Congress considerable resistance within the party emerged. Various dissident factions formed no fewer than nine successor parties, all of which competed for the legacy of the parent party.

In the 1960s, large areas of forest continued to be cut down, dams built, tracts of land expropriated in favor of coal mines or mines and left karstified after an imperialist overexploitation. Many industrial projects could only be realized because many thousands of Adivasi families were resettled and their villages were destroyed. Compensation payments for the 6.5 million Adivasi displaced were often only available on paper. The environment and thus also the habitat of the Adivasi was seldom taken into account (Icke-Schwalbe 2003). This has contributed to political radicalization at least since the early 1970s. The Jharkhand movement began organizing strikes and blocking the export of raw materials and industrial goods by blocking highways and railways.

Left ideologies spread particularly among the rural population (e.g. through the 1971 founded Marxist Coordination Committee). [5] The "left parties" also supported the Adivasi peoples in their demands for autonomy.

1973 became the party Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) founded. In the first years of the party, in which a few charismatic left leaders were assembled, it managed to create unity among the larger Adivasi ethnic groups on the demands for autonomy. Their goals soon found widespread acceptance in the urban areas of Chotanagpur (especially in Bokaro, Jamshedpur and Ranchi).

After the years of emergency under Indira Gandhi (1975-77), the planned Janata party-Government to separate Chotanagpur and Santhal Pargana as southern areas from Bihar and to realize the independent union state. But her reign was short-lived, and the following years brought another period of stagnation to the region.

In the late 1980s, the Hindu nationalist tried Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) then called for "Vananchal" (Sanskrit for woodland) - their version of a new state - to win votes. On the one hand, she was concerned with the development of an opposition policy towards the ruling Congress party in Delhi. On the other hand, the BJP and the Hindunationalist network associated with it tried Sangh Parivarto present the Adivasi as original Hindus in order to counteract Christian missionary work.

The emerging consensus of the political forces regarding the establishment of a state in southern Bihar prompted Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to do so in 1989 Committee on Jharkhand Matters to be launched under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior. However, the half-heartedly compiled results disappeared for a few more years in the drawer of the New Delhi bureaucracy.

In particular, the then Prime Minister of Bihars, the charismatic Laloo Prasad Yadav, was a clear opponent of the division of the country for many years. In order to defend his claim that Jharkhand could only arise from over his corpse, Laloo also managed to corrupt members of the opposition JMM (Balakrishnan 2004).

Only the election victory of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance at the national level in 1999 finally paved the way for self-determination. The multi-party coalition led by Interior Minister L.K. Advani (BJP) the election promise to reorganize the Indian Union. In August 2000, Parliament in New Delhi passed the Bihar State Reorganization Bill, paving the way for the establishment of Jharkhand.

In order not to ultimately grant the Adivasi of Chotanagpur too much power, both the mostly BJP-led state governments of neighboring states and the central government contradicted the desire for a larger Jharkhand. The original vision of a separate Union state also included parts of West Bengal, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh [6] (see Roy 2003 [1982]). The area, which finally became independent in November 2000 as Jharkhand, only includes the 18 southern districts of Bihar.

The state parliament of the young union state consists of 81 members. Jharkhand sends 14 MPs to the Indian lower house (Lok Sabha). The dominant political parties are the BJP, the Congress Party and the JMM. Other more important parties are the Communist Party of India, the Rashtriya Janata Dal by Laloo Prasad Yadav, and the Janata Dal (United).

Although the first two (BJP) Prime Ministers were Adivasi, a large part of this population group continues to suffer from land grabbing, economic and ecological exploitation and cultural discrimination. Improving the economic situation is the great challenge of the future. In particular, it is important to advance the expansion of the infrastructure (roads, water and electricity supply) and to rehabilitate the ailing state heavy industry.


[1] The investigation report of Committee on Jharkhand Matters from 1990 made it clear that all districts of today's Jharkhand were below the development level of Bihar. Even the Dhanbad district, which according to the report is the most developed in Jharkhand, was only 19 on a scale of 39 possible points (cf. A. K. Singh).

The largest coal deposits in India are the fields of Jharia and Raniganj in the Damodar Valley. The coal is mostly mined under primitive working conditions. Overall, India's coal reserves are among the largest in the world, behind those of the USA, China and Russia.

The name Jamshedpur is based on the founding of the city by the important industrialist Dorabji Jamsetji Tata in 1907. This industrially most important place is also one of the fastest growing cities in the Union state. As the second largest city in the meantime, Jamshedpur has a well-developed infrastructure, important roads and rail connections, iron and steel works, locomotive parts and truck production (Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company) as well as factories for the production of agricultural machinery. This is in Jamshedpur National Metallurgical Laboratory, eight vocational schools affiliated with the University of Ranchi and one of the state's three university hospitals.

[4] He was the icon of the movement as a former captain of the Indian hockey team, which won gold during the 1928 Olympics.

[5] The Naxalites in particular made the problems of the Adivasi and casteless Dalits an agenda. The group that has now largely moved away from its ideology Maoist Communist Center - meanwhile with the group operating in Andhra Pradesh People's War united - has been active in Chotanagpur for decades. Especially in the rural areas of the Giridih, Chatra, Hazaribagh, Palamu, Kodarma, Bokaro, East and West Singhbhum districts, they extort protection money, so-called "Levy", from Mafiamanians. The police are almost helpless: For example, the Naxalites rule and control in eight of the twelve blocks of the Giridih district.

The areas of the former Madhya Pradesh, which are mainly inhabited by the Adivasi peoples of the Gond and Khond, also became independent in 2000 as the 27th state of Chhattisgarh.


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