The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Muslims seek ST status

Ranchi, July 9: Tribals who converted and embraced Islam should also be given the status of Scheduled Tribes, demanded Ali Anwar, Rajya Sabha member from Bihar.

The JD(U) leader, who is also the national president of All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz, claimed that most of such tribals belong to the “Zolaha” or weavers’ community.

“They were originally tribals but converted to Islam and became Muslims. But they still reside in villages and share the lifestyle and physical structure of the tribals in the state. We want that the state government should identify such tribal muslims in the state and accord Scheduled Tribe status to them,” demanded Ali.

On a two-day visit to the state capital, the MP discussed problems faced by backward muslims in the state.

“Our organisation has established four units at Jamshedpur, Giridih, Hazaribagh and Dhanbad. The Ranchi unit will be in place shortly. Gradually we shall start a peaceful movement in the state for the inclusion of the Zolaha community in the Scheduled Tribe list,” he declared.

Ali claimed that the percentage of the Zolaha community is over 20 percent in Jharkhand and they are scattered across the state.

“One has to identify the families first and we shall do it after our organisation takes shape in all districts of the state,” asserted Ali.

The prominent muslim leader from Bihar recalled that even the Sachar committee report has advocated that if muslim tribals are identified in the country, they should be placed in the ST list.

Such recognition, he pointed out, has the potential of changing the complexion of politics in the state.

If tribals and tribal Muslims come together, they would no longer have to woo other communities for votes during elections. This will be a powerful combination to wrest power in Jharkhand, he declared.

Replying to a question, Ali claimed the plight of backward muslims in the state to be dismal. Unlike in Bihar, he pointed out, Jharkhand government has not declared Urdu as the second language and no effort has been made to fill up the posts of Urdu teachers in government schools.

“We have also been demanding schedule caste status for dalit muslims along with dalit christians. But so far there has been no response from the government ,” Ali lamented.

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