Kurmi community leaders have threatened to resume their indefinite rail blockade agitation from September 20 demanding the inclusion of their community on the list of Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Kurmali language in the eighth schedule of the Constitution.
“Our community leaders will stage simultaneous rail blockade at strategic stations across Jharkhand, Bengal and Odisha. Talks are also being planned to stage agitation at Assam from September 20 onwards. We will not withdraw our agitation anymore until Union home minister Amit Shah assures of taking up our cause in the proper forum. We will also withdraw if the Centre announces to raise our demands in the ongoing special session of Parliament,” said central president of the Totemic (a Kurmi clan) Kurmi Vikash Morcha, Sheetal Ohdar while addressing media at a Ranchi hotel on Monday.
“Our leaders have been mobilised to start the rail blockade simultaneously from 6am onwards at Muri, Gomoh, Nimdih and Ghaghra railway stations (all in Jharkhand), Khemasuli and Kastaur (both in Bengal), Harichandanpur, Jeraikela, Dhanpur, Baripada and Manoharpur (all in Odisha). We are planning to hold agitation at few railway stations in Assam too,” added Ohdar.
He also informed that community members will participate in their traditional attire and carry traditional musical instruments. “We would also request all the MPs from the state of Jharkhand, Bengal and Odisha belonging to the Kurmi community to strongly raise the demand for our community inclusion in ST and our language inclusion in the eighth schedule of the Constitution,” said a spokesperson of the Kurmi outfit, Harmohan Mahato.
The leaders also cited the Indian Gazette notification of 1913 which recognised Kurmis as aboriginal animists and the Bihar-Orissa Gazette Notification No. 49 Patna published on 16 December 1931 that included Kurmis as primitive tribes.
“Kurmis were listed among the aboriginal tribes vide notification no-550 in 1913 during the British era, but when the Centre notified ST lists on September 6, 1950, Kurmis were put in the list of other backward castes (OBC) in Bihar, Bengal, and Odisha,” said Harmohan.
“It is difficult to compensate for the social, cultural and financial loss that has been caused to the Kurmi community due to their exclusion from ST status. Union tribal minister Arjun Munda when he was the Jharkhand chief minister in 2004, had recommended to the then Central Government to list the Kurmi tribe in the list of Scheduled Tribes. Now as the tribal minister in the Centre, he is depriving us of our rights despite knowing our demands well,” said Harmohan Mahato.
He also said that they do not consider the Cultural Research Institute (CRI) report by the Bengal government or the Tribal Research Institute (TRI) report by Jharkhand.
The community leaders had taken part in the first rail blockade in September 2022 and again between April 5-10 this year resulting in the cancellation of several mail, express, and passenger trains and numerous trains were diverted or terminated short, affecting lakhs of passengers.
Loading of over 300 goods trains could not be done, while as many goods trains were stranded midway, causing a loss of over Rs 2000 crore in 10 days of rail blockade, twice under the South Eastern (SE) Railway, officials said.
SE Railway has written to the chief secretaries and DGPs of the three states, apprising them about the movement.
“We are negotiating with the state governments of the three states involved to settle the matter with the agitators as it is not related to railways and ensure adequate deployment of state police, magistrates, and GRP so that this issue is defused in advance. We have requested measures to ensure that the agitators are not able to reach the railway tracks. We have written to the chief secretaries and DGPs of Jharkhand, Bengal, and Odisha already,” said SER chief public relations officer Aditya Choudhary.