Kurmis in tribal status cry

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By ARUN KUMAR THAKUR in Ranchi
  • Published 13.08.03
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Ranchi, Aug. 13: Leaders of the Mahto-Kurmi community in Jharkhand today took their fight for classification as a Scheduled Tribe (ST) to the doors of Governor Ved Prakash Marwah.

The newly-constituted Jharkhand Adivasi Kurmi Samaj Samiti (JAKSS) in a memorandum to the Governor listed arguments and observations on why the Kurmi-Mahtos need to be granted the status of a Scheduled Tribe.

Any such classification requires a nod by Parliament but some tribal groups are averse to their inclusion in the ST list because that would adversely affect their chances in the congested reservation kitty.

Mahtos are said to constitute about 25 per cent of the population of the state.

“If the government does not listen to our demand, we will launch an agitation at the block level and finally go for road blockades,” JAKSS leaders said today after submitting their demand to the Governor.

Arguably the most politically influential section this state, Kurmis-Mahtos were de-listed in 1931 on the request of some affluent members of the community to the British.

“That was because some members of our society came under the influence of Kurmis from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar,” said Sunil Mahto, chief convener, who was part of the delegation that met the Governor.

The JAKSS leaders said their existence was under threat because they do not have a special quota under the Other Backward Classes category, nor are they getting protection of land and identity like the STs. “Our land has been taken away by the government for industries and big dams like Adityapur Industrial complex, Subernarekha multipurpose hydel project, Heavy Engineering Corporation and mining projects.

“Education is not free for us and we do not have any IAS or IPS officer from our community. We are a politically exploited lot. To enhance our social status, Mahto-Kurmis should be included in the ST list. We constitute about 28 per cent of the state’s population. If we are included, the tribal population would exceed 50 per cent which will put Jharkhand under Schedule VI like some of the Northeast states,” Sunil Mahto said.

They said the Tribal Research Institute (TRI) had prepared a wrong report on their status and claim. The researchers did not have “full knowledge of the facts”, they said. “We deserve to be included in the list because, like tribals, our society too is totemic and we worship nature. We even follow the same rituals,” they said.

The JAKSS leaders claimed that senior tribal leaders Sibu Soren and Ram Dayal Munda have supported their demand.

While authorities at TRI refused to say anything because they did not want to “stir a hornet’s nest”, some tribal scholars challenging the JAKSS claim. One of them pointed out that “adivasi” and “scheduled tribe” do not mean the same thing.”

Adivasis are people who have lived in a particular area for centuries. Scheduled tribes are groups listed by the Union government in 1956 after taking into account a series of indicators which classify them as a tribe.

“Why has this demand gained momentum only after the creation of Jharkhand? There are already three out of 14 MPs and six MLAs of the Kurmi-Mahto community in the state,” a tribal scholar said.