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Probe punch to Kudmi demand

Ranchi, April 9: Researchers probing into the anthropological origins of the Kudmi-Mahtos, arguably a totemic social group settled in the Jharkhand region since ages and constituting around 25 per cent of the state’s population, have rejected the demand to include it in the list of Scheduled Tribes.

The findings, when made public, are likely to cause severe tremors in the new Arjun Munda ministry, following increasing pressure by Kudmi ministers belonging to the Samata Party and the Janata Dal (United) along with the Mahto MPs and MLAs from the BJP.

Jharkhand Tribal Research Institute (JTRI) director P.C. Oraon said the research is complete and the institute has submitted its report to the state government. Oraon refused to divulge details, saying the report contains “all the answers”.

“This is a sensitive matter. I would not like to give out the details. But we have already submitted the report to the welfare department,” he said.

On February 16, Munda, then welfare minister in the Babulal Marandi government, had said that once the report was submitted, the state government would send it to the Centre for “sympathetic” consideration of the Kudmis’ demand.

Speaking during a convention of totemic Kudmis, Munda had indicated that he was all for inclusion of the social group as a tribe. Former AJSU leader Surya Singh Besra had also backed the demand.

“As many as 54 caste groups have represented their case for inclusion in the ST list since they claim to have been left out on some pretext or the other. Totemic Kudmis are one of them. In my opinion, all the left-out groups should be incorporated as tribes. My department’s research wing is examining the matter. As soon as the file comes, I will send it to the personnel department,” Munda had said.

With a spurt in the Jharkhand movement, particularly in the eighties, Kudmi leaders had stepped up their lobbying for re-inclusion in the ST list from which they had been deleted by the British in 1932. The creation of Jharkhand in 2000 provided a boon to the Mahto movement as caste leaders, cutting across party lines, officially petitioned the government for a thorough probe into the issue and to include the Kudmi-Mahtos settled in Jharkhand in the ST list.

The matter was referred to JTRI for an in-depth probe by the Marandi government. With Marandi’s sudden exit, the demand was picked up by rebel energy minister Lalchand Mahto of the Dal(U), who at one time had made the Kudmi-Mahto issue a pre-condition for his rejoining the NDA fold.

Sources said distinct primitive traits, shyness, totemistic clans and fixed settlement areas have been the standards that distinguished tribes or original settlers from outsiders. The sources said that in the case of the Kudmi-Mahtos, particular emphasis was given to probe the anthropological origins of the Mahtos to get to the root of the issue.

But Kudmi scholar Prafulla Kumar Mahto said: “Kudmis, who are of Dravidian origin, cannot be clubbed with the Kurmis of Bihar. On the lines of Majhis and Mundas, the designated heads of other tribes, Mahtos are the chieftains of Kudmi tribal villages.”

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