“Not Hindu. Sarna to be our religion”:  Tribals from 5 states urge Union to recognize their religion

Photo: Sukhdeo Murmu

A large number of people from various tribal communities of Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Bihar, and West Bengal staged a demonstration on Thursday demanding recognition of their religion as ‘Sarna’ by the Union Government and ensuring their enumeration in the upcoming census under this category.

“We Adivasis are neither Hindus nor Christians. We have our own way of life, religious practices, customs, culture, and religious thoughts, different from any other religion,” a tribal leader said to the PTI news agency.

The agitation was organized to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the Santhal rebellion against the British on 30th June 1855.

The agitators took a pledge to intensify their struggle in order to get the government recognition of the ‘Sarna dharma code’ and held a mass prayer at Jantar Mantar, seeking the blessings of their deities and revered leaders.

At Least 1,000 people had arrived from five states by train, but police denied the permission due to COVID-19 restrictions, PTI reported.

“We are here to demand that the government recognises our religion as ‘Sarna’ and include a provision in the upcoming census for enumeration of Adivasis under this category,” Salkhan Murmu, a prominent tribal leader from Jharkhand, who is spearheading the movement, told PTI.

“India is home to over 12 crore tribal people. They have been recognised as Scheduled Tribes but unfortunately, their religion has not been recognised even as it is fundamental under the Constitution,” he added.

Sarna can be accepted as a common name for the religion of all ‘Adivasis’ in the country as it means place of worship in the Santhali language, he pointed out.