23 June, 2021

Poisoned Arrow

As much as the crime, did his tribal tag hasten Soren's nemesis?

Poisoned Arrow
The man almost lends himself to the popular stereotype: the adivasi as a simpleton. Blunt, and open to the charge of being naive, with a tendency to get heated up quickly and calm down just as fast. He was also, in his heyday, a natural leader, a charismatic figure who shook the merchant-contractor class when he organised his people to fight for their rights in mineral-rich Jharkhand where the adivasis remain among the poorest. The Shibu Soren story should have had an ending befitting folklore. But somewhere along the way, there was the body of a dead man.

The trail led unambiguously to Soren: the guileless are no less guilty. The legal denouement was dramatic enough, and far from glorious. Soren, called 'Dishom Guru' or Great Leader in Jharkhand, made dubious history as the first sitting Union minister to be given a life sentence—for conspiring to murder his private secretary Shashi Nath Jha in 1994.

Soren, a six-time MP who subsequently resigned as coal minister, will surely go in appeal. Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan...

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