New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliated organisations are concerned over the Jharkhand assembly’s 11 November resolution that will allow tribal people in the state to identify with a distinct religion, Sarna.
Though the RSS hasn’t taken an official stand on the issue, a senior functionary termed the move a “conspiracy to divide Hindus and reduce their overall population”.
The Sangh Parivar is also worried about the rising trend in the tribal community to identify themselves as belonging to Other Religions and Persuasions (ORP).
If the Centre approves Jharkhand’s new ‘Sarna code’, Census 2021 would have to make space for a new religion. Currently, citizens can choose from only six religions — Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. However, those who do not subscribe to these religions are clubbed together as ORPs.
“The issue was taken up in the past few meetings and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram is looking into it,” the RSS functionary quoted above said.
The Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, an affiliate of the RSS that works on tribal issues, has now started an awareness programme in major tribal belts, where its functionaries are holding meetings with the community and emphasising how they are an integral part of the Hindu religion.
Sources said such awareness programmes are being held across the country, especially in states with sizeable tribal populations, such as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Odisha, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
In Maharashtra, for instance, in places where internet connectivity is good, the tribespeople are being sent WhatsApp letters urging them not to identify themselves under ORP.
“We are also narrating stories from our epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata which contain stories of tribespeople. This is proof enough that we are all part of the Hindu samaj,” said a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram functionary.
Another functionary told ThePrint that the VKA has started conducting meetings in several villages of Jharkhand. “This is nothing but a ploy to cut off the tribal community from the broader Hindu religion,” the functionary said.
“For the past two decades at least, an attempt was made to make the tribal community members identify themselves as ORP. This is nothing but a conspiracy. In the 2011 Census, there were 79 lakh individuals who identified themselves as ORP, and at least 44 lakh are from Jharkhand itself. It was noticed that these ORPs later converted to Christianity.”
A third functionary added: “Our workers are holding discussions and are asking the community why do they want to leave the Hindu fold and become part of the minority. We are emphasising how the Hindu samaj is one, and this is just a conspiracy to divide it.”
A fourth functionary told ThePrint that the Sangh Parivar is also getting support from groups that follow traditional religions, who are not in the favour of the Sarna code. “Bharat aur Bharatiyata surakshit rehne chahiye (India and Indianness should remain protected),” this functionary said.
“This is nothing but a political move to break the Hindu samaj. There are some Christian and Muslim groups behind this. We will not allow this to succeed and will take it up with the Centre too.”