The Bhuinhar Munda community of Jharkhand, widely believed to be a sub-group of the Munda tribe, has realised that there’s a lot in a name as the state government’s proposal for their inclusion in the list of Scheduled Tribes has been turned down by the Centre.
The Jharkhand government had sent the proposal to Union tribal affairs ministry in March 2021 which, in turn, was sent to the office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) for examination and finally rejected on the basis of their comments.
The ministry informed last month that the RGI office was “unable to support the proposal” of the Jharkhand government for inclusion of the Bhuinhar Munda community in the ST list of the state.
“There are about 3 lakh of them living in the state who are very much a subgroup of the Munda community but their identity as well as the demography of the state are at stake now, possibly due to some clerical error in Khatiyan (land records) and insensitive handling of the issue by some officials who equated them with the Bhumihar community of Bihar of which Jharkhand was a part in the past,” state Congress vice-president and former minister Bandhu Tirkey said when contacted, adding there are also others like Chik Baraik community who also faced the same problem.
The Jharkhand government, in its proposal, had argued that the Bhuinhar Munda community has a patriarchal society, follow tribal clan system and same tradition and customs as those of the Mundas and some of them were also issued ST certificates in the past.
They are called Bhuinhar as, in many cases, they were given land by zamindars or cleared forests for settlement known as Bhuinhar land.
The state government, in support of its arguments, also quoted H.H. Risely who, in his book The Tribes and Castes of Bengal, had written that Bhuinhar Munda was a sub-group of the Munda Scheduled Tribes.
It also quoted L S S O’Malley who, in the district gazetteer of undivided Palamau, had opined that both the communities had similar traditions and customs.
The office of the RGI commented that Bhuihar is in the central OBC list and Munda is in the ST list of Jharkhand but Bhiunhar Munda is not in any list, adding the name Bhuinhar possibly originated from land holding or land possession characteristic.
“Bhuinhar Munda appears to be a developed section of the Munda tribe who have occupied a dominant place in landed property, ceased their tribal relation with the parent group and became an endogamous group of themselves,” the RGI office further commented.
“For enlisting a community in the list of STs, along with tribal characteristics and origin, their contemporary tribal features and relative socio-economic backwardness are essential,” they further said, adding the state government did not furnish either such information or mention clearly any current relationship and commonalities of the two groups.
Saying the RGI office was not in favour of the state’s proposal for these reasons, Union tribal welfare ministry advised the latter “to furnish additional information/justification/clarification in support of the proposal”.
“I have already written to the chief minister for conducting a socio-economic survey on the community and send the findings to RGI office,” Tirkey told this paper.