Tribals plan agitation in Delhi for inclusion in next census
Tribals from across the country would converge again at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on April 25 to press for a separate religion code for tribals in the next census.
Addressing the media after a meeting of Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Dharma Parishad at Ranchi on Monday evening, its national president Vishwanath Wakade from Maharashtra, argued that despite less population of other religion they have been given separate religion codes in the census.
“On the basis of population, Adivasis are behind Hindus and Muslims. We have a population of over 15 crore and are yet to be given a separate code in the religion section of the census. We would be staging a dharna at Jantar Mantar, Delhi, on April 25 and submit a petition before registrar general (census commissioner) and Union home minister Amit Shah. We will also chalk out a future course of agitation to press for our demand during the course of dharna,” said Wakade.
National general secretary of the parishad and Ranchi-based tribal leader Prem Shahi Munda said that between 1871 and 1951 there used to be separate tribal code in the religion section under the category of animist.
“But in the Independence India tribal religion code was not included in the census. We had to write our religion as ‘others’. However, in the next census, the Centre is dropping the “Others” option from the religion column which would force tribals to either skip the column or declare themselves members of one of the six specified religions: Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh and in the process damaging the separate identity of the tribals,” said Munda.
“We would be staging a protest meet and also chalk out the next course of strategy to exert pressure on the central government to include Adivasi Dharma Code in the census. We know that elections are round the corner in a few states and we might plan our agitation in a way to force the government to rethink the decision,” added Munda.
The dharna would be addressed by former Congress leader and academician Geetashree Oraon, Gujarat MLA and leader of the Bharatiya Tribal Party, Mahesh Bhai Vasava and founder figure of the All Jharkhand Students Union, Surya Singh Besra.
“There would be speakers from other tribal communities like Gond, Sofahod, Dogi etc,” said Munda.
Odisha Adivasi Dharma Parishad in-charge Bapi Pankaj Sirka said that hundreds of tribals from Odisha have confirmed of reaching Delhi for the agitation. “We will run a mass awareness campaign in the country against the dangers to tribal identity if our religion code is not given in the census,” said Sirka.
Incidentally, tribals under the aegis of the Rashtriya Adivasi Samaj Sarna Dharma Raksha Abhiyan had staged a dharna at Jantar Mantar on December 7 last year and submitted petition with Prime Minister, Union home minister and registrar general for inclusion of Sarna code in the religion column of the census.
Tribals in Jharkhand are Sarna followers and are worshippers of nature and do not consider themselves as Hindus. Only small numbers of people from Jharkhand’s 32 tribal groups — who make up more than 26 per cent of the state’s population — identify themselves as Christian, Hindu or Muslim.
Implementation of a separate Sarna religious code in census surveys would allow the tribals to be identified as followers of the Sarna faith during census 2021.
Significantly, the Jharkhand Assembly had in November 2020 unanimously passed a resolution for a ‘Sarna Adivasi’ religion code in the 2021 census in a special one-day session and sent it to the former governor Droupadi Murmu.