BHUBANESWAR: Days after Jharkhand Assembly passed a resolution seeking separate religious code for tribals from the Central government, tribal leaders in Odisha are preparing for a mass movement to press for their demands to include a religion column as ‘tribal’ in the 2021 Census.
Until 2011 Census, people were classified under six religions – Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist and those who do not subscribe to these are clubbed under the ‘Other’ category.
Tribal bodies have expressed reservations as this time the Centre has dropped the ‘Other’ option for Census 2021. They fear tribals will be forced to either declare themselves members of one of the six specified religions or leave the column unfilled.
Secretary general of Odisha Adibasi Kalyan Mahasangha Niranjan Bishi said tribals do not belong to any religion specified in the Census document as they worship nature and have a distinct tradition and culture.
“Tribals were being categorised under a special tribal code till 1951, but later it was deleted. Our identity is being pushed to inexistence and we may lose our constitutional safeguards if our religious identity is not specified,” he pointed out.
The organisation has decided to submit its memoranda addressed to the Prime Minister and Chief Minister at district level on November 25 seeking a separate tribal code in the Census document. The members have planned to go for road blockade and rail roko on December 6 and intensify their agitation if no decision is taken by then.
A senior tribal leader Fagu Hansdah demanded Odisha government pass a special resolution on the lines of Jharkhand during the Winter session seeking separate tribal religion. “We have been demanding a separate Sarna religion since long. The government should include the option in the upcoming Census,” he said.
In the resolution sent to the Centre, Jharkhand has demanded Sarna religion be listed separately. Andhra Pradesh had also included ‘tribal’ religion as the tenth option among the 12 options in a recent household survey.