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Tribal groups block roads, trains to demand Sarna code

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Members of various tribal bodies took to the streets and blocked railway tracks across Jharkhand on Sunday, threatening to resort to violent protests if the NDA government at the Centre does not give its nod to the Sarna religion code resolution passed by the Hemant Soren-led government in Jharkhand.

Tribals, under the banner of three major organisations — Central Sarna Committee, All India Tribal Development Council and Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan – blocked railway tracks at Gangaghat railway station under Angada block disrupting movements of trains in crucial Muri-Ranchi section. The protestors also staged protests at Irgaon station on the Ranchi-Lohardaga section.

The tribal outfits also disrupted vehicular movement on various national highways and state highways. The protestors blocked roads at entry points of national highways in the state.

Central Sarna Committee president Phulchand Tirkey said, “We have been demanding a separate Sarna code since several decades, and the state has also approved it. We will resort to violent protests if the Centre delays the process from here.”

On November 11, the Jharkhand Assembly unanimously passed a resolution seeking the inclusion of Sarna as a separate religion in the upcoming 2021 Census.

The resolution passed during a special one-day Assembly session, has been sent to the Centre for approval. Opposition parties gave a proposal demanding a discussion on the resolution, which State Assembly Speaker Rabindra Nath Mahato accepted and later the Bill was passed in the House.

Even on Saturday, various tribal outfits took out processions with torches in support of the Sarna code to try and expedite the process by the Centre.

Sarna code has been a long-pending demand of the tribal community in Jharkhand. Several hundred members of the tribal community from Jharkhand staged a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on February 18 demanding a separate Sarna Code in the 2021 census.

Sarna followers are nature worshippers who do not consider themselves Hindus and have been fighting for a separate religious identity in India for decades. Lakhs of tribesmen who were born in Sarna-following families got converted to Christianity over the past century after the advent of the missionaries, claim tribal gurus.

These tribesmen have also been at loggerheads with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for tagged as Hindus by the saffron outfit. In 2014, thousands of Sarna followers handed over a memorandum to then Union minister P Chidambaram and demanded recognition of Sarna as a separate religion. The crusaders back then had also staged a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, but their pleas went unheeded. In 2015, about 30,000 tribesmen held a nationwide campaign for the same.

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