Delhi demo for Sarna identity

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By SANTOSH K. KIRO
  • Published 19.08.13
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Ranchi, Aug. 18: Over 2,000 tribals under the aegis of Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Mahasabha will stage an agitation in the national capital on Tuesday to step up the heat on the Centre for inclusion of a separate Sarna religion code in census forms.

The protest programme in New Delhi will be followed by a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday, where a delegation of the tribal outfit will press for their decades-old demand.

In the absence of Sarna religion code in census forms, these tribals, who worship Mother Nature, are either classified as Hindus or “others”.

Vishwanath Tirkey, the vice-president of the outfit, said that followers of Sarna religion from Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal will hold a daylong dharna at Jantar Mantar to bring this matter of their unique identity and tribal ethos into national consciousness.

“The size of adherents of Sarna religion is as huge as 10 crore across the country. If followers of Jainism, who number around 54 lakh, can be given a separate column in the census form, we deserve the same too,” said Tirkey.

“After the dharna, some office-bearers of our organisation will camp in Delhi to meet central leaders and hand them over our memorandum. They will meet the Congress president on August 21. We are also trying to secure an appointment from the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office on the same issue,” said Raj Kumar Pahan, the Mahasabha general secretary.

The demand for a separate Sarna column in the census form is more than four decades old and several tribal politicians, including Mandar MLA Bandhu Tirkey and Bishunpur MLA Chamra Linda, have been raising the same since long.

Significantly, the JMM-led coalition government’s document, meant to articulate its agenda of the next year, promises a separate column for the Sarnas in census forms as a means to recognise and preserve their distinct religious and cultural identity.

The common minimum programme of the JMM-Congress-RJD combine promises recognition to the Sarnas — around 70 lakh in population in Jharkhand — who have long expressed their displeasure at being categorised as Hindus.