This is seen as opposition to the ideological framework of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and a pushback against its agenda of subsuming Adivasis within the larger Hindu identity. Tribal community leaders and parties, including the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), have advocated the need for a separate Sarna religion code in the next census.
Followers of the faith do not believe in idol worship and instead revere the forces of nature, be it forests, hills, rivers or land. In the absence of a Sarna code, followers enroll in the category “Other religions and beliefs (ORP)” during the census exercise.
At the time of the presidential campaign and the anniversary of Santhal’s rebellion, the issue came back into the speech, with former BJP MP Salkhan Murmu organizing a protest in Jantar Mantar on June 30 under the banner of “Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan “. The organization led by the MP aims to “empower” indigenous communities across India.
By the way, between 1998 and 2004, Salkhan Murmu represented Mayurbhanj, the place where NDA presidential candidate Draupadi Murmu is from. She was elected as a Member of the Odisha Assembly in 2000 from the Rairangpur constituency which falls under the parliamentary seat of Mayurbhanj.
“Many say that the candidacy of Draupadi Murmu and his eventual elevation to the post of president are only symbolic. But I sincerely believe that the debate and dialogue sparked by his appointment has helped bring tribal issues into the spotlight. And in the future, it will be beneficial for the community,” Salkhan Murmu told The Indian Express on Friday.
And he is determined to drive up demand for the next occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan. “We have also tried to meet President Ram Nath Kovind, but reaching him is too difficult. So we gave the memorandum to the security personnel,” he said. During Thursday’s demonstration, around 1,000 people gathered at Jantar Mantar to protest against a torrential downpour.
The demand stems from concerns over the loss of identity, culture and traditional way of life in the absence of formal recognition, leaving the vast majority of tribals vulnerable to attempts to convert to Hinduism and Christianity.
“Furthermore, in many cases, census enumerators trick tribals into identifying themselves as Hindus. And if the country’s 12 million Adivasis can be recognized under Section 342 of the Constitution as Scheduled Tribes, their faith also deserves recognition under Section 25. It’s our basic right “said the former deputy.
In November 2020, the JMM-led government in Jharkhand convened a special session of the Assembly and passed a resolution to send the Center a letter to recognize Sarna and include it as a separate code in the 2021 census .
But Salkhan Murmu thinks the JMM is not serious about the issue. “After all, they depend on Muslim and Christian votes for their political survival,” he said, adding that he voluntarily decided to split from the BJP to focus more on social issues than electoral issues.