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HomeIndiaSoil for Ram Mandir construction angers Jharkhand tribals, VHP blames Christian missionaries

Soil for Ram Mandir construction angers Jharkhand tribals, VHP blames Christian missionaries

Soil from Jharkhand is sourced from 1,100 sarna sthals, which are places of spiritual significance to tribals. Followers of Sarna school believe they are a religion independent of Hinduism, Islam or Christianity.

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Ranchi: Soil has been drawn from religious places across India for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, but, in Jharkhand, the drive appears to have driven a wedge within the tribal community.  

Jharkhand’s contribution to the Ram temple campaign includes soil from 1,100 sarna sthals, which are places of spiritual significance to tribals. 

Followers of the Sarna school believe they are a different religion independent of Hinduism, Islam or Christianity. Some members of the Sarna community have thus protested against attempts to use soil from sarna sthals for the Ram temple, even as others have expressed support for the move. 

In the churn triggered by the controversy, a former BJP MLA has been booked for allegedly stealing soil from a sarna sthal, and lingering resentments regarding conversions have resurfaced, with supporters of the soil campaign blaming Christian missionaries for the protests. 

Amid all this are allegations that the former BJP MLA, Gangotri Kujur, engaged a Brahmin to conduct a “purifiation drive” at one of the sthals before its soil was collected. 

Sarna sthals are sacred in themselves. But former BJP MLA Gangotri Kujur invited a Brahmin for purification of the sarna sthal… only after this was soil collected and sent to Ayodhya,” said Sarna religious leader Bandhan Tigga. “An FIR has been lodged against this act. Apart from this, another FIR has been registered against a VHP office-bearer.”

ThePrint reached Kujur for comment through phone calls but she refused to make a comment about the allegations.


Also Read: ‘Do gaz doori’ at Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan as trust prunes invite list amid Covid scare


‘Other religions free to contribute’

According to the 2011 Census, there are approximately 10.4 crore tribals in India who comprise around 8.6 per cent of the total population. Information from the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs suggests there are a total of 705 tribes across the country. 

An RTI petition filed with the Jharkhand home department by advocate Dipti Horo revealed that there are an estimated 86 lakh tribals in Jharkhand. Out of this, around 50 per cent, or 40.1 lakh, are believed to follow the sarna school. Another 32.5 lakh subscribe to Hinduism, while around 13.4 lakh follow Christianity. The remaining follow Islam (18,107), Buddhism (2,946), Sikhism (984), and Jains (381). Around 25,971 tribals who do not believe in any religion.

Speaking to ThePrint, Keshav Raju, the organisation secretary of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Jharkhand, said sacred soil and holy water from 2,100 religious places have been sent to Ayodhya. He added that while the majority of soil was drawn from Hindu sites, those of other religions were free to offer contributions too. 

“Even Sikhism, Jainism followers have sent soil from their religious places. We did not invite Muslims for this. However, if they voluntarily come up to donate soil then we might think about it,” he added.

For the bhoomi pujan Wednesday, which will be attended by PM Narendra Modi, among others, two people have been invited from Jharkhand — Dhaneshwar Ram Munda and Chaitanya Brahmachari, both of whom are associated with the VHP. 

Munda said the majority of people opposing the contribution of soil from sarna sthals and are doing this “at the instigation of Christian missionaries”. 

Keshav Raju of the VHP agreed, alleging that “Christian missionaries (also) carried out large-scale conversion” during the Covid-19 lockdown.


Also Read: Idea of India wasn’t demolished at Ayodhya. That happened in our ‘liberal’ homes


‘A social boycott’

On 29 July, over 25 organisations protesting against the move to send soil from sarna sthal to Ayodhya held a meeting in Ranchi. Dr Karama Oraon, dean of the anthropology department at Ranchi University, who was also present in the meeting, said the participants had announced a social boycott against former MLA Ramkumar Pahan, Gangotri Kujur, Ranchi mayor Asha Lakra — all of them BJP leaders — and others involved in the soil-collection campaign. 

Prayer meetings will be held to “purify” all the sarna sthals from where soil was collected, he added. 

“Adivasis who believe in Hinduism, Christianity or other religions should desist from calling themselves as sarna dharmavalambi (followers of Sarna religion). This duplicity will no longer work. In this regard, we will also run an awareness campaign in our society,” Oraon said. 

Reached for comment, Lakra said those advocating social boycott should first do “self-introspection”. 

The issue has also taken on political overtones in the state, which is currently led by a Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-Congress coalition. 

“All these protests are taking place at the behest of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. Otherwise, what is the reason that no FIR was filed against the protesting organisations who indulged in effigy-burning, which is a gross violation of Section 144 that is currently in force across the state?” said BJP state president and Rajya Sabha MP Deepak Prakash. 

“People like Bandhan Tigga are doing all this at the behest of the JMM government. As far as the matter of soil collection is concerned, the pahnas (priests) of the sarna sthals have voluntarily brought it to us. It is a matter of mutual harmony,” he added.

Irfan Ansari, the acting president of the state Congress, said the soil collection drive is a gimmick. “Ayodhya’s soil is sacred in itself. In such a situation, the act of collecting soil or bricks from across the country… is just a gimmick. When the Tribals do not consider themselves as Hindus, then why are their religious feelings being toyed with?” he said.

JMM general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya said the soil-collection drive is a “Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ploy… against the tribals”.  “Sarna Dharma is a different religion,” he added.


Also Read: Let Ayodhya Ram Mandir be a reminder: Indian ancestors died for it, up to us to rebuild


 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Non tribals are not allowed to take tribals puja sthal soil. Some bikau tribals, without the consent of their community people took the purohit before taking the soil. Building temple is ok we don’t have problem but taking away soil by non tribals isnt in our custom. And yes, people who don’t belong to tribal community don’t know what are the rules and regulations of tribals.

  2. What is the need of divisive story? These sort of cheap journalism is dead and gone…..print should work towards responsible journalism.

  3. Anger is in the heads of crooked librandus. There is no reason for non-Hindus to dislike Ram Temple. The reason behind any such anger is crooked librandus instigating people.

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