A delegation of Vanvasis leaders under the banner of Janjati Suraksha Manch (JSM) met President of India Smt Pratibha Patil in New Delhi on January 18 and handed her over 2.8 million signatures of Vanvasis demanding protection of their reservation rights and other privileges which are being illegally grabbed by converted Vanvasis. The delegation was led by Shri Harsh Chauhan, national convener of the JSM.
The memorandum said the demand by Vanvasis is not new. Veteran Vanvasi leader and former Union Minister the late Kartik Oraon had raised it in 1970. He had then collected signature of 235 MPs in support of a recommendation of the JPC on Scheduled Tribes Amendment Bill 1969 which said: “Not withstanding anything contained in paragraph 2, no person who has given up tribal faith or faiths, and has embraced either Christianity or Islam, shall be deemed to be a member of any Scheduled Tribe.” The Supreme Court also recently advocated total review of the existing provisions of reservations. “Hence the injustice the Janjatis are being subjected to since 1950 must be stopped forthwith,” the memorandum said.
The memorandum was signed by many former ministers, former and sitting MPs, former judges, retired IAS officers, former chairperson and members of Constitutional Commission and Vanvasi social leaders. Some of them included Shri Dilip Singh Bhuria, Shri Juel Oram, Shri Anant Nayak, Smt Anusuya Uike, Smt Hirasan Uike, Shri Hemendra Singh Thakur, Shri Jagdev Ram Oraon, Smt Thamatai Pawar, Shri Chetram Pawar, Shri TP Bhagat, Shri Sudarshan Bhagat, Shri SS Oraon, Shri Jaleshwar Brahma, Shri Tazum Tasung, Shri Rajkumar Negi, Shri Shantaram Siddi, Shri Netan Shankar and Shri Vishnukant.
The memorandum said a lion’s share (70 per cent) of the benefits meant for STs are being enjoyed by 20 per cent converted Vanvasis and the real poor 80 per cent Vanvasis are left to settle with mere 30 per cent benefits.