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Telangana tribes on warpath, demand removal of Banjaras from ST list

Experts say the discontent has been brewing for at least three decades but a recent government announcement regarding staff recruitment through the Telangana State Public Service Commission blew the lid off the anger.

india Updated: Nov 25, 2017 22:17 IST
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Hyderabad, Hindustan Times
Telangana,Telangana tribes,Scheduled tribes
Lambada teachers were prevented from entering tribal welfare schools in Telangana recently.(HT Photo)

Northern Telangana has been roiled by mounting tribal protests over the past two months because of a single demand: removal of the dominant Lambadas, or Banjaras, from the scheduled tribe list.

The agitation, fronted by youth associations of Gond and Koya tribes, began in three districts — Adilabad, Komaram Bheem Asifabad and Mancherial — in the northern part of the state but has since spread to other tribal-dominated districts of Jayashankar Bhupalpally, Bhadradri Kothagudem and Khammam in the eastern region.

Tribals have taken out processions, held protests and dharnas and submitted petitions to the state government to press for their demand. Recently, thousands of tribals took out a massive rally in Kothagudem town, claiming injustice to the other tribes due to the domination of the Lambadas, a nomadic tribe.

In Asifabad, some groups have blocked Lambada teachers from entering tribal welfare schools, passing resolutions at village councils seeking their removal from the ST list and staging protests in front of the collectorate.

“All these years, the real Adivasis were subjected to injustice in education and employment because Lambadas would grab all opportunities. They destroyed our culture and tradition,” Gond Youth Association leader Kanaka Ambaji Rao told HT.

Experts say the discontent has been brewing for at least three decades but a recent government announcement regarding staff recruitment through the Telangana State Public Service Commission blew the lid off the anger.

Other tribals fear the Lambadas will corner most of the jobs under the ST quota. The state reserves 6% of its jobs for scheduled tribes and in April, passed a bill to take that figure up to 10%. Asifabad collector Champalal said there had been no major law and order trouble and that the tribals’ protests have been peaceful.

“We have formed committees to negotiate with the agitators and see to it that the classes (in schools) were not disrupted.”

The Lambadas, who have not resorted to any major retaliation, say their legitimate rights were being threatened. “We constitute more than 70% of the STs in Telangana. It is only in the recent past that we were able to get our legitimate share in education and jobs,” Bhukya Sanjeeva Naik, a Lambada leader, argued.

G Haragopal, retired professor at the University of Hyderabad, said, “Though they are treated as non-tribals in some states, Lambadas too have tribal characteristics. So, demanding their deletion from the ST list may not be possible, but the best solution is to categorise the STs based on their population and backwardness ...”

First Published: Nov 25, 2017 22:17 IST