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Self-rule agitation spreads in Odisha

Sundergarh: ‘Pathargadi’ movement which is marked by installation of stone plaques by fringe tribal outfits against the traditional constitutional administration seeking self-rule is spreading like a wildfire in several villages of Sundergarh.

The movement has now sparked clashes between two sects of tribals, one represented by fringe outfits who are demanding self-rule and others who are opposing such a movement.

As the tribal-dominated Sundargarh district is defined as a Scheduled area under the fifth schedule of the Constitution, Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) (PESA) Act, 1996 is applicable.

Proponents of the movement demand implementation of PESA and Forest Rights Act-2006 and forest land pattas (RoR) for the welfare of the tribals. They claim to form a parallel administration and ignore the one that is set up as per the Constitution.

Sources said that the movement has often resulted in clashes with police and Government officials as supporters of the agitation resort to illegal activities to seek self-rule.

On Tuesday, a group clash at Telighana village under Kutra police limits led to the death of a Pathargadi opponent Dambarudhar Seth. Protesting the incident and demanding arrest of the fringe outfit members, the opponents along with the family members of the deceased staged a road blockade today.

Till now the agitation has already spread to as many as 10 blocks of the district.

On the other hand, keeping in view the law and order situation, the administration on Wednesady called on four MLAs of the district and other stakeholders and held discussions to resolve the matter. However, there has been no headway so far.

George Tirkey, Birmitrapur MLA and the leader of the Pathargadi movement has said that in coming days the agitation will be intensified and extended to 13 more districts.

Criticising the state government for its neglect towards the tribals, MLA Tirkey said “Even as the PESA Act came into force in 1996, it has been 21 years since, but the government has shown no interest in implementing it.”

But leaders of other parties have opposed such a movement.

“The tribals who claim forming a parallel administration are trying to fool people by their fake promises of a revolution for development,” said Augustin Minz, president of Khutakati Vikas Manch.

Rajgangpur MLA Mangala Kisan said “We all support the PESA and gram sabha constitution under it, but we disapprove those who are trying to mislead people by means of forming their own PESA and forest rights in the name of Pathargadi.”

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