JHARKHAND CHIEF Minister Hemant Soren on Sunday said that “Adivasis were never Hindus and they never will be” and that there should be no confusion about this. The community has always been of nature worshipers, and that this is the reason why they are counted as “indigenous people,” he added.
Soren was responding to a question on whether tribals were Hindus after delivering a virtual lecture at the 18th Annual India Conference at Harvard University Saturday night. The session was moderated by Suraj Yengde, senior fellow, Harvard Kennedy School.
“There are 32 tribal communities in our state, but in Jharkhand we have not been able to promote our language, culture…,” he said.
He said his government has demanded from the central government a separate column for Adivasis in the next census so that they can continue their tradition and culture with safeguards. “Adivasis were never Hindus and they never will be… where will the Adivasis go, whether he will write Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Muslim, Christian [in the census]… I came to know that these people [central government] have removed the ‘Others’ column. It seems they have to adjust in this only,” the Chief Minister said.
Soren said the state government’s focus is to provide jobs to the people this year, but the central government is not talking about jobs. “And why should it be. If the central government gives them jobs, and everyone will remain busy, who will pick the flag of the BJP,” he added.
He also targeted the previous BJP government in the state for using the law to achieve its political agenda and said that an activist, Father Stan Swamy, has been jailed after being labelled as a conspirator by the central government.
When asked about the recent state slogan of “Khanan nahi, Paryatan (tourism, not minerals)” in the backdrop of Jharkhand being dominantly a mineral rich state, the Chief Minister said that almost all countries in the world where minerals are mined are not in a good state. He emphasised on tourism as a new measure for growth. “The forests which Adivasi revere as god, others see those forest areas as mines and minerals,” he said.
Soren said people from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities have been ignored and repressed over the years. “The mentality has not changed. I often hear people saying to Adivasi/SC/ST ‘tum log is layak nahi ho (you people are not capable)’,” he said. Giving his own example, he said despite being an Adivasi he reached the Chief Minister’s post but it was not easy.
“Despite safeguards in the Constitution, Adivasis do not get their due, they have been pushed down since ages, today also it is the same mentality. They are looked down upon, this is a matter of concern,” he said.
On measures his government has taken during the pandemic in the state, he said although many labourers died the state provided for many during the lockdown.
He said 2021 will be a year of employment and more vacancies will be made for aspirants of government jobs. This is the reason the government is providing opportunities to children of Adivasis to get education in eminent educational institutes in foreign countries. The Government of India also runs such schemes. But Adivasi children do not get benefit, he said. “It has been 20 years since the state was formed but Jharkhand is yet to reach where it should have,” he said. He said his government has decided to start a tribal university for their development.
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