Cardinal Telesphore Toppo’s statement against the tenancy amendment bills passed by the state assembly have brought him on the firing line of a few Sarna (nature worshipping tribes) outfits and the ruling BJP.
On Monday, Kendriya Sarna Samiti (KSS), a conglomerate of tribal rights and religious bodies in Jharkhand, burnt the effigy of Toppo, accusing him of playing politics over tribal sentiments and hindering development of the tribal community here.
The KSS also rendered support to the government’s decision and said that the amendments may benefit tribals here.
The Cardinal had on Sunday said that the changes proposed to be made in the Chottanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act were not in favour of the tribal communities and would put their lands up for grabs by outsiders.
A vernacular daily on Sunday quoted him saying that the tribals will become extinct if their land is given away to private parties.
“The Cardinal should not worry about tribals, he should think of Christians instead. The missionaries are penetrating our villages and performing mass tribal conversion,” said Fulchand Tirkey, secretary, KSS.
Cardinal Toppo could not be contacted for his comments.
However, Father Vipin Kundalna from the Arch Bishop’s House rubbished all the allegations, claiming that the Cardinal voiced his opinion due to his concern for the tribal community.
“We should not forget that the Cardinal too is a tribal. He has all the right to voice his opinion. They accuse us of converting tribals, but why would we form only 4% of the population if such mass conversions took place?” he asked.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Laxman Giluwa came out with strong words against Toppo’s remarks.
“Forces from the Church are adding fuel to fire, and instigating protests against the government’s decision,” Giluwa said.
“Till date, they were fueling the protests from behind the curtain, but now, they have come out in the open, making their intentions clear,” he added.
Congress state president Sukhdeo Bhagat on Monday demanded an apology from Giluwa for his statement against Cardinal Toppo.
Meanwhile, former chief minister Hemant Soren, former union minister Subodh Kant Sahay and members of the Jharkhand Adiwasi Sangharsh Morcha staged a protest against the CNT, SPT amendment bills at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Monday.
The CNT and SPT amendments will allow acquisition of tribal agricultural land for non-agricultural development purposes. The amendments, government claims, would uplift the tribals by given them optimum value for their land.