Priyanka Gandhi had lent her support to the Nishad community's demands during her Prayagraj visit. (ANI Photo)
Priyanka Gandhi had lent her support to the Nishad community's demands during her Prayagraj visit. (ANI Photo)

Days after dip in Sangam, Priyanka Gandhi continues outreach in Nishad community

  • The Nishad community is a caste group listed under Other Backward Classes in UP. Nishads are heavily dependent on the tourism industry as they ferry tourists in the famous ghats of Varanasi and Prayagraj.
By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Ayshee Bhaduri, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 23, 2021 03:05 PM IST

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Tuesday tweeted in support of the Nishad community in Uttar Pradesh. Gandhi, who is the party's general secretary in-charge of UP, had visited Prayagraj on Sunday to meet the members of the community.

“The real claimants and protectors of the river are the people of the Nishad community. In Banswara, Prayagraj, we will fight against the oppression of UP police and for the rights of Nishad society. The Nishad families whose boats have been demolished will be provided with a financial assistance of 10 lakh,” Gandhi said in a series of tweets.

Gandhi announced that Congress will organise a ‘Nadi Adhikar Yatra (Right to the river rally) in support of the Nishad community. Adding that since Nishads have a primary right over the resources of the river, a cooperative society should be formed for legalising and regulating sand mining activities in the Yamuna river. “Congress will take out the Nadi Adhikar Yatra for the rights of the Jan Nishad community. Nishads have the primary rights over the resources of the river. With this idea in mind we demand the formation of a Nishadraj Cooperative Society for sand mining activities,” she tweeted.

The Nishad community is a caste group listed under Other Backward Classes (OBC) in UP. It subsumes many castes and subcastes, such as the Mallahs, Binds, Manjhis, Kewats, Kashyaps, Turhas, Majhwas, Bathams, among others. These communities are all primarily engaged in fishing and boating, as well as farming along the river banks. Many Nishads are also engaged in daily-wage labour such as sand mining.

Nishads are heavily dependent on the tourism industry as they ferry tourists in the famous ghats of Varanasi and Prayagraj. In early February during a drive against illegal sand mining in the Yamuna river, the UP police had damaged boats plied by the community.

In 2013, the National Green Tribunal stopped the extraction of sand from rivers using heavy machinery, but companies continued mining activities using small boats. The UP government had in June 2019 banned the use of small boats in sand mining, which coupled with the pandemic induced lockdown financially crippled the river-reliant Nishad community. Nishads have been demanding mining contracts for its community members from Yogi Adityanath’s government.

Gandhi had lent her support to their demands during her Prayagraj visit. "If the mining mafia is allowed to mine here, why can't those, who live here, who have a right on contracts, on this land, on this river, work here," she had said.

In the 152-member assembly of UP, Nishads hold considerable sway. In both the 2014 and 2019 general elections, Nishads had supported the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Nishad Party president’s son Praveen Nishad is a sitting member of Parliament, who joined BJP after walking out of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in 2019.

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