Mistaken identity spells doom for the tribals in chhattisgarh
Ajaybhan Singh
[email protected]
Raipur, 6 December
Like millions of others who dreamt of an end to the ages of despair and marginalisation, around half of Chhattisgarh&’s Saura tribe stands deprived, alienated due to mistaken spellings which was actually aimed at identifying them.
About two percent of Chhattisgarh&’s ‘Savara’ tribes are identified with various names due to mistaken spellings attached to them by the revenue and forest officials in the state. The Chattisgarh government omitted all such names from the Schedule category except ‘Savar’ and ‘ Savara’ in 2003 after an Apex Court ruling in Milind Vs Government of Maharastra case, asked all the states to verify the veracity of caste groups enjoying the Schedule Tribe status.
The descendents of Munda tribe, an originally Indonesian tribe which settled in India thousands of years ago, claimed eminent sociologist and anthropologist Prof. G S Ghurye in his acclaimed book “ Caste and race in India” , the Savaras are called by different names in different area. In Odisha they are ‘ Sahara’ , in Chhattisgarh they are identified as ‘Savar’, ‘ Savara’, ‘ Samvara’, ‘ Saunra’ and ‘ Saura’, while in parts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh they are called as ‘Saunr’ and ‘ Sahariya’.
All the acronyms of the beleaguered tribe can be attributed to the Sanskrit word ‘ Shabar’, almost entire puranic literature suggest that these ‘Shabars’ existed across the Indian subcontinent in the vedic era and they had close association with legendary epic Characters Lord Ram, Lord Krishna, Vikramaditya of Ujjayini etc, says Naroji , president of Samvara Samaj Sangh.
“For centuries we are living as one ethnic entity, but a misinterpretation of a Supreme Court ruling by the state government rendered half of our brethren left out of the ambit of Schedule Tribe status, leaving them to struggle hard to make ends meet,”  he claimed adding that the deliberate exclusion is costing dear to the youths of this mostly poor tribe scattered across south-eastern Chhattisgarh.
Around 4.5 lakh population of savara tribe is spread in Mahasamund, Dhamtari, Jagdalpur, Kondagaon, Raigarh and Jashpur district of the state. ‘Savaras’ could scarcely boast of a literacy level as low as 25 oer cent with rare cases of having an opportunity to get enrolled into medical and engineering. The entire community hardly has three  doctors with no representation in All India Services, Judiciary, Media, legislative assembly and Parliament.
“Despite living in utter despair and extreme poverty, state government has brutally turned deaf ears to their woes and I have come to know of the several instances of community youths being thrown away from the government services and Colleges in the absence of Schedule Tribe certificate. This is not only disgusting and a deliberate injustice to a marginalized section but also a mockery of democracy” say Mrs Pratibha Pandey , a senior Congress functionary and daughter of slain veteran leader Mr V C Shukla.
It is not that the community which has only handful of graduates, did not try to convince the state and the Central government that they are one ethnic group despite being called by separate but similar names.
The state government&’s complete apathy led to a rejection of their plea to have another look into their case by the Registrar General of India( RGI) and subsequently by the Ministry of Tribal affairs, which was initially sympathetic to them.
The RGI in its 2003 order had stated that the revenue record be taken into consideration while ascertaining the ST status but state government did not complied with the advisory.