Tribal organisation Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan (Santhali word for tribal empowerment campaign) has threatened Bharat Bandh on December 30 to protest against non-announcement of separate Sarna dharma code by the BJP-led Centre.
Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan national president and former BJP MP from Mayurbhanj (in Odisha), Salkhan Murmu said that they would now go ahead with their Bharat Bandh agitation on December 30.
“We had given the Centre a time till year end to announce a separate Sarna religion code and were hopeful that the Prime Minister would at least make a reference about tribal long-standing demand for Sarna religion code. But unfortunately, there was no mention of this point.
“Our activists who had threatened self-immolation were detained. I was put under house arrest and not allowed to even sit on fast near the Birsa Munda statue in Jamshedpur. We have no option but to go ahead with Bharat Bandh on December 30,” said Murmu.
The tribal leader threatened that they would paralyse transportation, both road and railways, in seven states where they are active on December 30.
“We will not allow transportation of minerals and coals from the seven states of Jharkhand, Odisha, Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh. We have our activists in all these states and they will go all out to disrupt transportation in these states,” threatened Murmu.
Significantly, tribals in Jharkhand majority of whom are Sarna followers and nature worshipers have been fighting for a separate religious identity in India for decades and in recent years have staged agitation in Delhi and other parts of the country.
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 organisations have claimed that with 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.
JMM central general secretary and spokesperson, Supriyo Bhattacharya also took a dig at the BJP ‘real love for tribals and a tribal dominated states like Jharkhand, Manipur and Mizoram’.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi came and announced schemes but did not even utter a word on Sarna which has been passed unanimously by the state assembly in 2020 and sent to Centre. But no decision has been taken on it so far. It shows the PM and his party (BJP) real love for tribals. Unfortunately, not a single word was said about ailing PSU Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC) in Ranchi whose employees have not got their salary for 19 months. It seems Modi ji wants to sell even HEC to his favourite corporate friends,” said Bhattacharya.