Jamshedpur, 11 November
Tribal activists on Saturday threatened to commit suicide if Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not make any announcement on their long-standing demand of recognition of Sarna religion during his proposed visit to Jharkhand on November 15.
President of ‘Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan’ (ASA) Salkhan Murmu said that the workers will fast from 10 am to 1 pm in Jharkhand and other states on that day in support of the demand.
Modi is scheduled to visit Ulihatu, the birthplace of tribal icon Birsa Munda in the state’s Khunti district, on his birth anniversary on November 15, which is also Jharkhand Foundation Day.
Murmu said that the threat was issued by two ASA activists but his decision on it was taken independently.
“We are expecting the Prime Minister to make an announcement on our long-standing demand of recognizing the separate Sarna religion… If he does not clarify the Centre’s stand on our demand, the two activists have decided to commit self-immolation ” itself at 4 pm in Ulihatu and Bokaro,” said former MP Murmur.
ASA had organized a rally in Ranchi on 8 November demanding recognition of the tribal Sarna religion from the Centre.
Incidentally, the Center has declared November 15 as ‘Tribal Pride Day’ from 2021.
Murmu said most of the states in the country such as Punjab, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal were formed on linguistic basis to preserve their cultures, identities and languages, but were recognized under the 8th Schedule of the Constitution in 2003. Despite this, Santhali has not been made an official language of Jharkhand till date, although it was separated from Bihar after a long tribal movement for the state.
ASA leaders of Assam, Bengal and Jharkhand met on Friday and decided to block rail and road on December 30 in support of Sarna Dharma.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren had earlier this week said that Modi is welcome in Jharkhand but the decision to recognize ‘Sarna’ religion is still pending with the Centre.
“We have already sent them all the papers (related to the demand for a separate Sarna religious code for tribals)… now they have to take a decision on it,” Soren said on Thursday.
He said that recognition of Sarna Dharma is necessary to distinguish tribals from followers of other religions and to ensure protection of their constitutional rights.
Soren, in a letter to the Prime Minister in September, had sought recognition of the ‘Sarna’ code for the tribals and claimed that their population in the area has declined from 38 per cent to 26 per cent in the last eight decades.
Sarna is a religious faith of the Indian subcontinent, followed primarily by indigenous communities in the Chota Nagpur Plateau region in the states of Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar and Chhattisgarh. It has the distinction of being the largest tribal religion of India.