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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Kurmi community protest hits express and passenger trains

Community blocks tracks, NH6 to demand ST tag

Snehamoy Chakraborty, Animesh Bisoee Calcutta, Jamshedpur Published 09.04.23, 05:05 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File photo

Rail and road connectivity between Bengal and states like Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Odisha and Tamil Nadu have gone haywire over the last five days following blockades by two organisations of the Kurmi community demanding Scheduled Tribe status.

Around 500 express and passenger trains connecting Bengal with various states were cancelled in the past four days, a South Eastern Railway official said.

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However, state and central governments appear to be shying away from a solution because of political compulsions.

While Adivasi Kurmi Samaj is blocking railway tracks at Khemashuli in West Midnapore and Kustaur in Purulia since April 5, another outfit with a very similar name — Adivasi Kurmi Samaj, West Bengal — has laid siege to NH6, popular as Calcutta-Mumbai highway, near Khemashuli from April 4.

Leaders of both outfits have said they would continue with the blockades till they get a favourable answer from Calcutta and Delhi.

Leaders of both outfits said that they were aware of the hardships that the blockades caused to ordinary people, but they pleaded helplessness in view of the overwhelming demand from the community.

According to Kurmi protesters, the state has to forward the community's demand to the Centre in a proper format for action to be taken.

"The state government has repeatedly assured us of taking steps to meet our demand.... The Centre says the state is not doing its job. The state government maintains that the Centre has to act. We are caught in the middle," said Ajit Mahato, chief adviser to Adivasi Kurmi Samaj.

A source said the state and the Centre are keeping the issue hanging because of high political stakes involves.

"If the Kurmi demand of ST tag is met, a large section of the tribal community will get upset...," said the source.

Multiple sources in Nabanna said that the state government's immediate priority is to lift the blockades.

"We are trying to divert the road traffic through a few arterial roads.... But the blockades at two railway stations are the biggest problem. Our officials in two affected districts, Purulia and West Midnapore, are consulting with protesters, but a solution is elusive," said a state government official.

The Kurmi community is concentrated mainly in Jungle Mahal districts of Bengal, Bankura, Purulia, Jhargram and West Midnapore. Members said they were listed as ST till 1931, but excluded for “unknown reasons” after Independence. At present, the Kurmis tagged as OBC.

However, tribal outfits in Bengal such as the Adivasi Ekta Manch are gearing up to counter the Kurmi demand. The Manch has called a mega rally in Bankura's Khatra on Monday.

The tribal people pointed out that there were no ST demands from the Kurmi community in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Mahato claimed that the Kurmi people in this region were "completely different" from their counterparts in other states. "We have many documents that support that we belong to the indigenous community," he said.

The BJP attacked the state government for the rail and road blockades.

"....Seems like there is no State Govt. in WB. Why no efforts to resolve the situation through dialogue? Its result of @MamataOfficial's instigation," the leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari tweeted on Saturday.

Sunil Mahata, the chairman of the West Bengal Kurmi Development and Cultural Board, said the state government was in talks with Kurmi organisations.

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