Conversion issue leads to protests in J’khand

via published on March 29, 2007

RANCHI: The tribals in Jharkhand are concerned over the ‘invasion’ of the converted people who avail of government benefits even as the real community remains deprived of education and job opportunities.

In the 2001 census report, the original tribals have been clubbed with those who converted to religions like Christianity. Now the tribal community demands that there should be a religion column in the census form to separate the original tribals from the converts.

“The tribals should be put under different columns to maintain their separate identities,” said Narayan Bhagat, a member of the Adi Dharma Parisad, a tribal body.

He said: “The tribals of the country should be brought under one religion – Adi Dharma – so that they can get the facilities provided by the state and central governments.”

Tribal leaders in parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are unhappy that converted Christians also get tribal status in the census and can avail of the facilities given to tribals.

The issue was raised in the state assembly in the ongoing budget session by four Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators.

“There should be a separate column for tribals’ religion in the census. Converted tribals avail of facilities in Christian missionary schools and benefit from jobs while the real tribals remain deprived,” said BJP legislator Chandresh Oraon.

“In the present census, tribals are clubbed with those who converted to other religions. There should be a separate column to segregate the converted from the tribals,” he added.

The tribal population has registered a sharp decline in the last five decades. In 1950 the tribal population was 40 percent of the total population of Jharkhand, only to go down to 27 percent in the last census. The Christian population, which was negligible in 1950, has gone up to four percent.

The literacy rate among the tribal population is less than 40 percent as against the state’s 54 percent. In Jharkhand, 52 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and most of them are tribals.

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