Jamshedpur: Tribal organisation Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan (ASA) on Wednesday called for a “symbolic” Bharat bandh on December 30 in support of its long-standing demand for the recognition of Sarna religion.
ASA president Salkhan Murmu said the Sarna religion code is the identity of 15 crore tribals of the country and denying the recognition to the religion of the tribal community is “tantamount to constitutional crime”.
Forcing the community to embrace other faiths was like “compelling them to accept the slavery of religion”, he said and accused both Congress and the BJP for depriving tribals of their freedom of religion.
Murmu claimed that the 1951 census had a separate code for Sarna religion but the Congress had later removed it, while the BJP is now trying to convert the tribals as Vanvasis and Hindus.
ASA is in favor of protecting the interest of the tribal community. “We will vote for whichever party recognises Sarna religion,” Murmu said.
Sarna is the indigenous religious faith of tribal communities, who predominantly worship natural elements such as mountains, forests and wildlife. The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has suggested that Sarna religion be accorded independent category in the religion code of the census.
Several tribal organisations and Christian missionaries are demanding a distinct census code for Sarnaism.
Murmu said around 50 lakh adivasis had enlisted their faith as ‘Sarna’ in 2011 census compared to 44 lakh for Jainism. However, Jainism has been accorded a separate religion status but Sarnaism has been deprived of it till date.
Also neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Ulihatu in Jharkhand, the birthplace of tribal leader Birsa Munda, nor President Droupadi Murmu who visited Baripada in Odisha in November uttered a word on recognition of Sarna religion.
“As ASA has left with no option, it has decided to call a day-long symbolic Bharat bandh with the support of like-minded organisations on December 30,” he said.
As part of the protest tribals will take to the streets and block road and rail movement to press for their demand, Murmu said and urged political parties who had supported the Sarna Religion Code Bill in Jharkhand assembly on November 11 to come out in support of ASA’s demand.
The Jharkhand Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution in November 2020 advocating the recognition of Sarna as a distinct religion in the census.