Pan Indian tribal outfits will intensify their demand for recognition of Sarna tribes as a separate faith by handing over a petition to the Prime Minister and Union home minister on October 6 in Delhi, former Bihar law minister Dev Kumar Dhan said on Sunday.
Sarna tribe members claim they belong to a non-Hindu, non-Muslim and non-Christian faith and yet are recognised as Hindus in the census and other socio-economic surveys. According to Sarna leaders, a separate religious code will help them keep their properties intact through a Waqf Board-like trust besides preserving their heritage, language and getting the benefits as a minority community.
Dhan, who is also a convener of the Adivasi Sarna Mahasabha, said that it their mission was to attain Sarna religious code before 2019 general elections.
The tribals had been pressing for the same for long and they had held a demonstration at the Jantar Mantar in Delhi on August 20, 2013 under the banner of All India Sarna Religious and Social Coordination Committee in this connection.
Former BJP Parliamentarian from Mayurbhanj (Odisha), Salkhan Murmu, said, “We are neither Hindu nor Christian. Article 25 (1) of the constitution recognizes preserving and developing one’s religious faiths and practices as the fundamental right. It is unfortunate we are still begging for this.”
Murmu cited an instance from Odisha where students for the last one year were called to mark their religion in a scholarship form with only three options-- Hindu, Muslim and Christians. Students have no choice but to mark one of them though they are “Sarna’’ Adivasis. “We are planning to move court over this,” he said.
Former chief minister Arjun Munda said, “The census does not give the actual figures of the adivasis as they are clubbed with the Hindus. The adivasis, for sure, have a distinct identity and beliefs which need to be preserved and a separate code would work.”
Former deputy speaker of Bihar legislative assembly Devendra Nath Champia said, “There is no way an adivasi from Munda, Ho or Santhal stock will change his ethnic identity by adopting other faiths or titles. This is a clear departure from the Hindu ethos and tradition.”
Champia even claimed, “We could be the third largest block after the Hindus and the Muslims if counted as Sarna adherents. If the measure is adopted our population hovering around 7-8 percent would shoot up 15% and our voice would be heard and respected.”
Dhan said if 45 lakh Jains, 84 lakh Buddhists, 2.82 crore Sikhs and 2.78 lakh Christians could be recognised as separate religion why couldn’t the Sarnas be.