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List of STs notified, Kurmis of Bengal left out again

Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Arjun Munda denies politics in it, says the Centre is awaiting West Bengal government’s initiative in the matter.

Anjali Bhatia | New Delhi |

The Union Cabinet has notified 15 tribal communities approved on Wednesday for inclusion in the list of Scheduled Tribes (ST). But the tribal Kurmis of West Bengal could not make it to the list despite a long pending demand for tribal status from the community.

When asked about the reason for non-inclusion of the community in the ST list, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Arjun Munda said there are some set guidelines and standards for the inclusion of a particular caste in the list of Scheduled Tribes. This is a regular process which needs to be seen from the constitutional point of view, not from a political perspective. He said it is a whole process.

The minister further said, “Long before Bengal, the matter came to us when the Registrar General of India (RGI) sent it back to the government of Bengal. The matter is pending with the Bengal government, not with us.”

When this reporter approached the RGI office, an official confirmed receiving a letter from the Bengal government long ago. He said the RGI had sent the letter back to the state government asking for details about the claim. However, the Bengal government has not sent any reply till date. The demand will be processed only after receiving their reply.

The demand of Hati community of Himachal Pradesh was also rejected thrice. On fourth time, the community has been included in the list of ST. Why not Kurmis then? On this, Munda said that in Himachal Pradesh the government kept in constant touch with the RGI through correspondence and when all the standards were met, they were included in the list of Scheduled Tribes.

Arjun Munda further said the Hati community is already included in the list of Scheduled Tribes in Uttarakhand. The tribal community of Bengal has some issues with the BJP and the Central government. In the last year’s assembly elections, the community expressed its anger through their vote. Hence, their votes went largely to the Trinamool Congress (TMC). As a result, the TMC was able to win more than half the seats of West Bengal.

With this, the TMC was victorious in 40 seats in Jhargram, West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura. There are a large number of Santhal tribes in Bengal, they worship nature and forest and consider themselves followers of the Sarna religion. They demand that the Sarna religion be given government recognition. Will the Center consider the demand of the Santhals?

Answering the question, the Union minister said that in India, there are different tribes in different regions, and everyone has its own belief system. Whether it should be seen from a political perspective or from a far-reaching point of view, the people should decide.

At the moment, saying anything in this matter won’t serve any purpose. Decisions are taken only after these subjects are discussed at many levels.