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Soren : 'Living god' only too human

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Dec 5 (UNI) The long arm of the law has finally caught up with the high-profile lawmaker.

Life has come full circle for Shibu Soren -- once worshipped as a 'living god' by the adivasis in the rugged terrain and dense jungles of Jharkhand.

Soren, who resigned as Union Coal Minister after a local court on November 28 convicted him of murdering his personal assistant Shashinath Jha, had stepped down from the same post on July 24, 2004 after a non-bailable warrant was issued against him in the Chirudih massacre case.

He was re-inducted into the Union Cabinet and given back the coal ministry on November 27, 2004. On March 2, 2005, he was invited to form the government in Jharkhand by Governor Syed Sibtey Razi and appointed as the Chief Minister. He resigned on March 11 following his failure to obtain a vote of confidence in the assembly.

He was re-inducted as Union Coal Minister in the cabinet expansion of January 30 this year.

Born on January 11, 1944 at Nemra village in Hazaribagh district of the then Bihar state, Mr Soren was seen as someone who would rescue the hapless tribals from the clutches of 'mahajans' (moneylenders) and exploiters from the plains, and give them a separate home state.

Such was his influence that the man was hailed as the 'promised liberator' and was renowned as one whom 'arrows could not kill and wild animals could do no harm.' But his infallible image took a beating with his arrest in the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) bribery scandal.

Soren, known as 'Guruji' among his supporters, started his political career in the early 1970s and rose to became a tribal leader. On January 23, 1975, he allegedly led a mob that attacked the Muslim-dominated Chirudih village in Jamtara district in a campaign to drive away "outsiders", a term used to describe non-tribals.

Ten people including nine Muslims were killed in the attack. He was charged with 68 others for murder.

He lost his first Lok Sabha election in 1977. He was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1980 from Dumka. In 1986, an arrest warrant was issued against him.

He was subsequently elected to the Lok Sabha in 1989, 1991 and 1996 as well. In 2002, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket. He won the Dumka Lok Sabha seat in a by-election the same year and resigned his Rajya Sabha seat. He was re-elected in 2004.

Soren founded the Sonat Santhal Samaj in 1969 followed soon after by the JMM, and has ever since held sway over the tribal sentiments by striving to uphold their rights. He became the JMM's general secretary in 1971.

He was JMM president since 1986. In 1995, when the Jharkhand Area Autonomous Council (JAAC), comprising 18 districts of Santhal Parganas and Chotanagpur was formed, he was nominated its chairman.

In 1997, he lent his party's support to the minority government of Lalu Prasad on the understanding that a bill for the creation of a separate Jharkhand state would be brought in the assembly.

Finally, the formation of the separate Jharkhand state became a reality in 2000 through a bill passed in Parliament.

Soren's political career has all through been marked with highs and lows including several terms of imprisonments for participation in movements against the moneylenders' exploitation. He has also been charge-sheeted by the CBI for the possession of assets isproportionate to his income.


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