Sixty-nine years after independence, the Central government has initiated the process to grant tribal status to communities living in the farflung areas of Trans Giri and Dodra-Kwar regions.
Nearly 50% of the population in Sirmour district comprises the dominant “Haati” community, living in difficult conditions across the Giri river.
Ever since the Jaunsar and Babbar areas of Uttarakhand, which share its boundaries with the Trans Giri area, were granted scheduled tribe status in 1967, the inhabitants of Trans Giri have been demanding a scheduled tribe status but their request went unheard for several decades.
“When our traditions, rituals and geographical terrain are the same as that of Jaunsar and Babbar, why should we be denied of the scheduled tribal status,” says Pratap Singh Tomar, convener of Central Haati Samiti.
The Himachal government had time and again corresponded with the Central government, seeking scheduled tribe status for transgiri and Dodra Kwar regions.
The state government has now moved a case for granting scheduled tribe status to both areas, which have a difficult terrain and are considered to be highly backward.
The government in 1992 had conducted a survey to assess the socio- economic condition of the people. Based on the survey, the state government asked the Centre to categorise inhabitants of both regions as scheduled tribe. The Trans Giri area comprises of nearly 124 panchayats.
Similarly, the Dodra Kwar sub-division also demanded tribal status. Majority of the villages in Dodra Kwar still lack road connectivity. It was in 2009 that the government started a bus service to Kwar. Due to its remoteness, the region still remains a nightmare for the government employees posted here. Prior to region being connected with a road, it took four days to reach Kwar from Naitwar, the nearest station in adjacent Uttarakhand. People in the remote regions are dependent on agriculture while sheep rearing is still a mainstay of the local economy. “Based on the survey report, the state recommended scheduled tribe status for Dodra Kwar and transgiri area,” a government higher up, who requested anonymity confirmed to Hindustan Times. “The Central government has sought some more details,” he said.
In 2014, the government had asked the department of tribal studies in Himachal Pradesh University to conduct studies to gauge the socio-economic conditions of the people. The report had been sent to the Centre for consideration. The Centre also asked the state to conduct the studies on the Gurkha community that has been seeking scheduled tribe status. Known for its valour, the Gurkha community in Himachal is spread in four districts Chamba, Kangra, Solan and Sirmour.
Apart from inhabitants of the land-locked Barabhangal, a remote regions in Kangra district too were vying for the tribal status. It takes nearly two days of trek to Barabhangal from Baijnath town in Kangra. Inhabitants have to cross 16,000ft high thamsar pass to reach the village. Kullu’s BJP legislator Maheshwar Singh had been constantly demanding the tribal status for Malana - an ancient village in Kullu district.
The village that draws its lineage from Greek King Alexander is the oldest democracy in the world in absence of basic amenities, the villagers here grow cannabis. Similarly, there was demand for tribal status in Chuhar region in Mandi. The region is known for its opium cultivation.