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Telangana adivasis move Supreme Court seeking removal of Banjaras from ST list

An adivasi group in Telangana has moved SC appealing that Banjaras be excluded from the state scheduled tribes list because they were not originally STs, but had migrated to Telangana from other states. Also, mass influx of Banjaras is affecting benefits available to tribes in the state, the plea said.

telangana Updated: May 23, 2018 18:08 IST
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
Telangana,adivasi,Supreme Court
The plea said Banjaras have been cornering most of the benefits of reservations in admission to educational institutions in Telangana, appointments and promotion in government services and elective offices of the legislature and Parliament.(HT/Photo for representation)

An adivasi association in Telangana has moved the Supreme Court appealing that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 1976 recognising Banjaras (Lambadas and Sugalis) be declared unconstitutional and illegal because it has led to mass influx of Banjaras from other states affecting benefits available to tribes in the state.

In his petition filed on Tuesday, Adivasi (Girijana) Employees Welfare and Cultural Association secretary Tellam Venkateshwara Rao argued that Banjaras were not originally scheduled tribes, but had migrated to Telangana from other states in the past. Lambadas are originally a nomadic tribe.

“They had not been treated as scheduled tribes in the Telangana region of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh. Only nine tribes — Andh, Bhil, Chenchu (Chenchwar), Gond (including Naikpod and Raj Gond), Hill Reddis or Konda Reddis, Kolam (including Mannarvarlu), Koya (including Bhine Koya and Rai Koya), Pardhan and Thoti — were declared as STs in the erstwhile Hyderabad State under the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950. Lambadas or Sugalis were not covered by the order,” Rao pointed out.

There were attempts to include Sugalis and Lambadas in the ST list in Andhra Pradesh in 1956 by amending the Constitution, but the then central government quickly acted to prevent their inclusion in the ST list. “In 1976, however, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act was passed in Parliament recognising the Banjaras (Lambadas and Sugalis) as Scheduled Tribes in the Telangana areas,” he pointed out.

Stating that the 1976 Act was unconstitutional and illegal, the Adivasi leader said it had resulted in large scale migration of Lambadas from other states to Telangana to corner benefits meant for the original tribes. “The Lambadas have been cornering most of the benefits of reservations in admission to educational institutions, appointments and promotion in government services and the elective offices of the state legislature and Parliament all these years,” Rao alleged.

Though adivasis have been protesting against inclusion of Lambadas in the ST list since 1976, the immediate cause of the recent unrest among adivasis is said to be regularisation of land records in all the villages by the Telangana government and filling up of jobs through the Telangana State Public Service Commission. The adivasis fear that Lambadas would get their allegedly occupied lands regularised and also corner most of the jobs available under the ST quota.

The state reserves 6% of its jobs for scheduled tribes and in April, it passed a bill to take that figure up to 10%. According to the 2011 census, STs constitute 9.91% of the total Telangana population of 36.3 million.

In December 2017, the tribal areas of northern Telangana and parts of Khammam and Warangal witnessed violent protests by adivasis and counter-protests by the Lambadas. Two Lambadas were killed and several people were injured from both sides, besides a few policemen at Husnapur village in Komuram Bheem district of Telangana.

Both the groups allegedly resorted to desecration of statues of leaders of their rival groups, which resulted in escalation of violence. It took more than a week to bring the situation under control, after the state government swiftly moved large number of security forces to the area to prevent further violence.

Lambadas argue that they have the legitimate rights to be in the ST list. “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, said.

First Published: May 23, 2018 18:08 IST