President Droupadi Murmu, who is on a three-day visit to Jharkhand, on Thursday emphasised safeguarding the culture and identity of tribals but was silent on the Sarna religion code issue despite a prod from chief minister Hemant Soren.
Addressing a women’s conference for women self-help groups (SHGs) organised by the Union ministry of tribal affairs at Khunti, the birthplace of tribal icon Birsa Munda in Jharkhand on Thursday late afternoon, on her second day of visit to the tribal-dominated state, said: “Tribal culture should be emulated by other so-called advanced society. We neither give nor take dowry. We should be proud of our culture and take steps in preserving and safeguarding it and teach them to our children.”
She went on to add that if this is not done then there is a possibility of tribal identities vanishing amid changing times.
Stressing on the social responsibility of the tribals who have progressed, she asked the developed tribals to take care of their individual social responsibility in ensuring the uplift of fellow tribals who have not progressed much.
“We see several tribals who get success and progress in their life. They should not forget their social responsibility towards tribal communities and take steps to ensure that fellow tribals should also develop. They should look behind and help other tribes also to advance in life,” said Murmu.
However, the President who had been the longest serving governor of Jharkhand (2015-2021) and also recalled her deep roots with tribals in Jharkhand by recalling in her speech that she had Jharkhand blood in her veins remembering that though she belonged to Odisha (Rairangpur) her grandmother was from Manoharpur in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district, surprisingly maintained her silence on the burning issue of Sarna religion code
Significantly, tribals in Jharkhand who are Sarna followers have been fighting for a separate religious identity in India for decades.
Tribals argue that the implementation of a separate Sarna religious code in census surveys would allow the tribals to be identified as followers of Sarna faith. Tribal bodies have claimed that with the Centre dropping the “Others” option from the religion column for the next census, Sarna adherents would be forced to either skip the column or declare themselves members of one of the six specified religions: Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh.