People of the tribal (Janjati/ Vanvasi) community gathered in large numbers in the Ulgulan de-Listing maha rally (grand gathering), organised by the Janjati Suraksha Manch at Morhabadi Ground of Ranchi on Sunday, December 24. The rally witnessed an impressive turnout of the Janjati community despite stringent opposition from various organisations that had earlier opposed the gathering, citing a possible law and order issue on Christmas eve.
The grand de-listing rally called by the Janjati Suraksha Manch was part of the ongoing campaign run by the organisation to bolster the cause of a nationwide delisting exercise to identify and remove those people from the Scheduled Tribes category who had converted and embraced another faith other than those originated in Bharat.
Addressing the gathering of around 50000 people, the national convenor of the Janjati Suraksha Manch and former minister Ganesh Ram Bhagat asserted that the framers of the constitution had envisaged provisions for reservation and other developmental facilities for over 700 tribes in the country. However, the benefits of these provisions predominantly accrue to those who have forsaken their traditional practices and converted to other religions, thereby depriving the original Janjati community for intended benefits.
Further, while addressing the rally, the national co-convenor of Janjati Suraksha Manch, Raj Kishore Hansda said that those individuals who have converted should be excluded from availing reservation facilities meant for Scheduled Tribes.
रांची की सड़कों पर जनजाति समाज का उमड़ा जनसैलाब pic.twitter.com/wGknKio02v
— Janjati Suraksha Manch (@JSManch) December 24, 2023
While indicating the reservation benefits availed by the individuals who have converted, Hansda further referred to the presentation of Baba Kartik Oraon to the Joint Parliamentary Committee, advocating that those abandoning tribal beliefs and practices should not be considered members of the Scheduled Tribe and should not qualify for reservation.
A few speakers in the rally also highlighted the provisions of Article 341 of the Constitution, suggesting that those individuals who convert to another religion lose the benefits accorded to the Scheduled Tribe. Further calls were also made to those who had changed their religion under the influence of certain individuals and groups and were willing to return to the Sanatan fold.
The grand gathering concluded with demands such as halting the conversion of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes by imposing strict laws and denying reservation benefits to those who have changed their religion. The resolution adopted at the rally also advocated for enforcing strict laws to prevent the conversion of forest dwellers (Vanvasis).
Opposition to the rally
It is to be noted that earlier, a few organisations, including the Issai (Christian) Adivasi Mahasabha (a Christian body active mainly in Chhattisgarh), had written a letter demanding a ban on the proposed de-listing rally called by the Janjati Suraksha Manch in Jharkhand’s capital.
In the letter written to the deputy commissioner, Ranchi, the Christian body claimed that the preparation for Christmas began almost a month ago and that special prayers were held on the evening of December 24, thus the proposed delisting rally should not be allowed.
In the letter, the Christian body also highlighted that Article 25 of the Indian Constitution provides freedom of conscience along with the right to fully profess, practice, and propagate one’s religion, and the demand for delisting raised by the Janjati Suraksha Manch is opposite to the very intent of this fundamental right.
It is pertinent to mention here that, off late, the Janjati community across different states of Bharat has been raising their voice against the menace of conversion, seeking a nationwide delisting exercise to identify those among the community who have changed their religion but still owns a scheduled tribe/caste certificate and availing benefits of the reservation.
It is to be noted that the demand for delisting is one of the long-pending issues of the Janjati community, many of whose leaders have time and again emphasised the need for a nationwide de-listing exercise. This includes greats like Baba Kartik Oraon, who had also supported the cause to safeguard the rights exclusively given to the community.