IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Separate religious code for Sarna tribals

12th November, 2020 POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

Context: Jharkhand government convened a special session and passed a resolution to send the Centre a letter to recognise Sarna religion and include it as a separate code in the Census of 2021.

  • For the last many years several protests and meetings have been held by various tribal groups in Jharkhand and elsewhere pushing the same demand.

What is the Sarna religion?

  • The followers of Sarna faith believe pray to nature.
  • The holy grail of the faith is “Jal, Jungle, Zameen” and its followers pray to the trees and hills while believing in protecting the forest areas.
  • Jharkhand has 32 tribal groups of which eight are from Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.
  • While many follow Hindu religion, some have converted to Christianity — this has become one of the planks of demanding a separate code “to save religious identity”— as various tribal organisations put it.
  • It is believed that 50 lakhs tribal in the entire country put their religion as ‘Sarna’ in the 2011 census, although it was not a code.

What has been the politics around it?

  • Many of the tribals who follow this faith have later converted to Christianity—the state has more than 4% Christians most of whom are tribals.
  • Some who still follow the Sarna faith believe the converted tribals are taking the benefits of reservation as a minority as well as the benefits given to Schedule Tribes.
  • They also believe that benefits should be given specifically to them and not those who have converted.

What are the reasons given by state government?

  • Tribals who go for work in different states not being recorded in the Census.
  • Separate code will ensure recording of their population.
  • Declining numbers affect the constitutional rights given to them and how the rights will be bestowed upon the Adivasis under 5th Schedule of the Constitution.

What sense does a separate code make?

  • The protection of their language and history is an important aspect with tribals.
  • Between 1871 and 1951, the tribals had a different code. However, it was changed around 1961-62.
  • Today when the entire world is focusing on reducing pollution and protecting the environment, it is prudent that Sarna becomes a religious code as the soul of this religion is to protect nature and the environment.