Rahul Gandhi meets Tana Bhagats at Mecon Community Hall in Ranchi on Tuesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, Sept. 25: They live by Gandhi’s ideals even 64 years after he was gunned down. Today, around 1,500 people of the marginalised Tana Bhagat community, including 300 women, came to meet another Gandhi in the capital.
Like the Tana Bhagats, tribal Gandhians and descendants of freedom fighters, All-India Congress Committee general secretary Rahul Gandhi also wore white. Unlike him, the men donned the Gandhi topi — the sidelined symbol of the Indian politician that made a resounding national comeback with Anna Hazare — while some carried old-fashioned trumpets and cymbals.
The media was kept out of bounds at the hour-long afternoon interaction between Rahul and the Tana Bhagats who had trooped in from Ranchi, Gumla and Lohardaga districts at the heavy guarded Mecon Community Hall.
But the Tana Bhagats, who spoke to The Telegraph while waiting in queues for security check, revealed the top issue on their minds.
“We still need records of our land that the British confiscated between 1921 to 1942,” Sukra Tana Bhagat, who came from Kurgi village in Sisai block of Gumla district, said.
The Tana Bhagats, a section of Oraon tribe, had under the leadership of Jatra Bhagat, protested against the British in 1914 when taxes were imposed on land. When Bhagat died, they found Mahatma Gandhi closest to their ideal of Spartan living and enthusiastically took part in the civil disobedience movement. But even after 65 years of Independence, they did not get back legal rights to their land.
That hasn’t dampened their beliefs. “We are vegetarians, believers of non-violence and sport the Tricolour in our homes,” said Ram Mohan Tana Bhagat, who came from Senha in Lohardaga district.
He explained the term tana. “It is the pull of a simple life that obeys god.”
When they emerged after the interaction with Rahul, they were seen smiling though they admitted that the youth leader had been noncommittal. “Rahulji said the state was not run by our party. He heard the plight of the Tana Bhagats and promised to do whatever he could,” said Congress worker Binoy Sinha Dipu.
There were hardly any youngsters among the Tana Bhagat at the hall.
But when Rahul was ready to wrap up, a couple of young faces were seen. “Chalo yuva neta ko dekhne kuch yuva to aaye hain (At last some youths to see the young leader),” said a wag.
“The rest must be munching Barfi,” he added, pointing at the nearby multiplex.