Hindu Vanvasis said clearly no to sharing their reservation benefits with those who have converted to Christianity or Islam. Warning a countrywide agitation if their demand was not met soon, they said the converted Vanvasis are enjoying double benefits after adopting Christianity or Islam, which would not be allowed at any cost now.
Participating in a seminar organised in Delhi by Janjati Suraksha Manch and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram the Vanvasi delegates assembled from various parts of the country said the government must take concrete steps to preserve and promote their traditional culture and identity.
The delegates also presented a memorandum to President Pratibha Patil making similar demands. Before presenting the memorandum, an extensive signature campaign was conducted in 24 states and 2 Union Territories. The campaign covered 293 districts and 26,253 villages and collected signatures from 27,67,621 Vanvasis. Besides collecting signatures, some resolutions to this effect were also adopted in 2,202 Gram Sabhas demanding immediate withdrawal of the reservation benefits being provided to the converted Vanvasis. A total of 65 Tribal Traditional Institutions also supported the signature campaign and resolutions. Twenty-three Member of Parliament and 43 MLAs also extended support to the campaign. All these signatures, resolutions and supporting letters were also sent to the President through concerned District Collectors and state Governors. The states covered during the signature campaign included Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
Speaking at the concluding ceremony Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Shri Kariya Munda said the converted people should not get the benefit of ST reservation. He stressed the need to organise such seminars at different places of the country to educate and mobilise the Vanvasis on this issue.
Shri Harsh Chauhan, national convener of Janjati Suraksha Manch, said the Supreme Court also said in a verdict that if a Vanvasi has to enjoy ST reservation benefit he has to remain a Hindu Vanvasi. He quoted the Supreme Court verdict delivered in the case of Kerala Vs Chandramohanan (2004) 3 CCC 499 in which the apex court said: “Before a person can be brought within the preview of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, he must belong to a tribe. A person for the purpose of obtaining the benefits of the Presidential Order must fulfill the condition of being a member of a tribe and continue to be member of the tribe. If by reason of conversion to a different religion a long time back, he/his ancestors have not been following the customs, rituals and other traits, which are required to be followed by the members of the tribe and even had not been following the customary laws of succession, inheritance, marriage, etc. he may not be accepted to be a member of a tribe.”
Former president of National SC/ST Commission Shri Dilip Singh Bhuria said justice has not been done with the Vanvasis in the Constitution as well as by the successive governments of independent India. He said the entry of alien ways of worships should be banned in the Vanvasi areas as conversion is fast emerging a main cause of conflicts among the Vanvasis. Demanding enactment of a central law for the protection and preservation of Vanvasi culture and identity he said there must be clear policies regarding Vanvasis and the government must abandon its policy of double standards. He wondered that the Government is one hand rehabilitating the Bangladeshi infiltrators and on the other hand is displacing its own citizens i.e. the Vanvasis.
Shri Vijay Sonkar Shastri, former chairman of SC/ST Commission, said there should be no politics in the welfare of Vanvasis. He said the government machinery is not sensitive towards the Vanvasis. He demanded immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Joint Committee Report of 1969. Kalyan Ashram president Shri Jagdevram Oraon, former Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court Shri VS Kogaze, joint general secretary of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram Shri Kripa Prasad Singh, former Chief Minister of Jharkhand Shri Arjun Munda, senior BJP leader Shri Bal Apte, former Union Minister Shri Fagan Singh Kulaste and many other distinguished persons also spoke on the occasion. (FOC)