ON NOVEMBER 11, the Jharkhand State Assembly in a special session sent a resolution to the Union government asking for a separate religion code for the tribal population in the upcoming Census 2021 exercise. The resolution named it “Sarna Adivasi Dharam”. Followers of “Sarna” are usually nature worshippers. They have been demanding recognition of it as a distinct religion for decades. At present, under the census, there are codes for only six religions: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. While filling in these columns, a tribal resident has to identify himself or herself as one of these or as “others”, but cannot specify his/her religion as a different one.
In census surveys during 1871-1951, there was a separate category for tribal population. But later this was dropped. In independent India, the tribal identity has been about constitutional provisions promising to protect their rights and central laws promising to protect their land. Although recognised as an administrative and social category—Scheduled Tribes— these communities have never been recognised as a separate religious group.
For the Census 2011, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes did recommend the addition of this code. Demand for the separate religion code picked up in Jharkhand as preparations for the survey started in September.
Till now, the Union government has not agreed to this. But while debating the resolution, state Chief Minister Hemant Soren said the Sarna Dharam can teach a lot to the world facing problems, such as pollution and environmental degradation, as it is all about worshipping nature, forests, and mountains.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
MAY 16-31, 2000 | DROUGHT - A POLITICAL DROUGHT
Drought in India is a human-perpetuated crisis
SEPTEMBER 1-15, 2008 | HYDROPOWER - MYTH OF POWER
Nourisher of an ancient civilisation, the Ganga could be gasping for its survival
JULY 1-15, 2009 | VACCINE SHORTAGE - GET YOUR OWN VACCINE
How a plan to promote private vaccine makers boomeranged
JANUARY 1-15, 1995 | DISEASE RESURGENCE - THE MICROBES STRIKE BACK
Diseases that were cheerfully believed to have been eradicated are inexplicably cropping up again in India
NOVEMBER 16-30, 2018 | MOBILITY - DUMPED BY THE RICH
Low-income vehicle importing countries of Africa and South Asia are turning into a scrapyard for old, used and close-to-being-scrapped vehicles of rich nations
OCTOBER 1-15, 1997 | BANDIT VEERAPPAN - CATCH ME A COLOSSUS
What gives rise to people like Veerappan who openly flout the law? Is it the result of a policy which increasingly alienates people from what should be theirs and encourages them to support outlaws? Is something rotten in the State machinery?
FEBRUARY 16-29, 2020 | COVID-19 - CORONAVIRUS PANIC
More than a month after the first case was reported from China, there is little the world knows about the new coronavirus. What’s certain is that the virus is highly contagious. Is the world ready to face a pandemic?
JANUARY 1-15, 2003 | FOREST RIGHTS - DEEP IN THE WOODS
A murky battle rages inside India’s forests and court rooms. Are the recent eviction drives misdirected at forest dwellers?
DECEMBER 16-31, 1994 | BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY - THE LIVING DEAD
The world’s biggest industrial disaster is now rendered trivial
Spring back to life
A non-profit's technological approach for springshed rejuvenation helps Uttarakhand women end their water woes