Ranchi: Hopes and aspirations are running high among tribals of Jharkhand as they look up to Droupadi Murmu, who is set to take oath as India’s first tribal President on Monday, to pave the way for their ‘sengel’ (empowerment) after “centuries of neglect”.
They are also optimistic that Murmu, a former governor of the state, would take steps to fructify a long-standing demand by tribals that the Centre recognise their religion as ‘Sarna’ and ensure enumeration under this category in the next census.
Salkhan Murmu, who is spearheading the ‘Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan’ (tribal empowerment campaign) in 250 districts of five states (Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Assam and West Bengal), told PTI: “As Bengalis consider ‘Sonar Bangla’ as their identity and home, the tribals regard Jharkhand as their epicentre.
“They want the culture and traditions associated with them to be preserved here. We are confident that Droupadi Murmu will take steps towards establishing the ‘Sarna Code’.”Salkhan Murmu recalled how the President-elect as the then governor of Jharkhand had taken a tough stand on several occasions when “tribal issues came to be compromised” – returning a bill during the previous BJP regime that aimed at amendments in land laws, as well when changes were proposed in the Tribal Advisory Council by the JMM-led Hemant Soren government.
“We adivasis are nature worshippers. Not recognising the ‘Sarna Code’ will mean forcing tribals to convert to other religions. We will seek time and meet her at the Rashtrapati Bhavan,” Salkhan Murmu said.
Bablu Munda, president of Kendriya Sarna Samiti, Jharkhand, said the tribals are hoping that the doors of the Rashtrapati Bhavan will always remain open for adivasis.
“Time has come for betterment of tribals and the country as a whole,” said Sumitra Murmu, national convener of the Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan.
The tribal leaders unanimously said Droupadi Murmu’s election to the top post is a real tribute to the sacrifices made by tribal icon Birsa Munda and the likes of Sido Murmu and Kanhu Murmu, among others, who led the Santhal rebellion against the British in the 1850s.
Earlier, the Jharkhand Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution, seeking the inclusion of ‘Sarna’ as a separate religion in the census.
“We have passed the Sarna tribal religion code in the assembly and forwarded it to the Centre,” Chief Minister Hemant Soren had said in a tweet last month.