"We're not Hindu": Tribal communities from 5 Indian states want religion recognised
A large number of people from various tribal communities of five Indian states demonstrated in New Delhi on Thursday (June 30, 2022), saying they are "not Hindus or Christians" and demanding their religion be given a separate category.
The demonstrators also took a pledge to intensify their struggle in order to get Indian government's recognition for the "Sarna dharma code" and held a mass prayer at Jantar Mantar, seeking blessings of their deities and revered leaders.
The agitation was held to mark the anniversary of the beginning of Santal Rebellion against the British on June 30, 1855.
The agitators, a majority of whom belonged to the Santal tribe, raised their demands under the aegis of the Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan (tribal empowerment campaign) from 250 scheduled tribes-dominated blocks from 50 districts of Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and Assam states.
"We are here to demand that the government recognize our religion as 'Sarna' and include a provision in the upcoming census for enumeration of Adivasis under this category," Salkhan Murmu, a prominent tribal leader from Jharkhand, who is spearheading the movement, told PTI.
Murmu, who was a BJP lawmaker from Odisha's Mayurbhanj Lok Sabha constituency for two consecutive terms from 1998-2004, said tribals in the country have their own religion, religious practices and customs but it has not yet been recognised by the government, our New Delhi correspondent reports.
"We Adivasis are neither Hindus nor Christians. We have our own way of life, religious practices, customs, culture and religious thoughts, different from any other religion. We worship nature and not idols. There is neither Varna system in our society or any sort of inequality," he said.
"India is home to over 12 crore tribal people. They have been recognised as Scheduled Tribes but unfortunately their religion has not been recognised," he said.