A noteworthy development is the Jharkhand tribal community’s protests against the Sarna Dharam rule, a unique religious rule intended for adherents of the native Sarna faith. A state-wide walkout is expected on December 30, and tensions are high ahead of PM Narendra Modi’s planned visit to the state.Jharkhand Tribal Protests
The Union government is urged to formally recognise Sarna as a distinct religion in the next Census 2021 by the Sarna Dharam Code, which was approved by the Jharkhand Assembly in November 2020. Sarna adherents, who are described as nature worshippers, respect the sacredness of mountains, woods, and bodies of water. Their aim is to obtain governmental recognition for their unique faith, as they do not identify with any of the mainstream religions like Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism.
Various tribal leaders and organisations have been pushing for the Sarna Dharam Code for decades, claiming that the present census categories do not adequately safeguard their identity, culture, and history. Fears include the possibility that outsiders may take advantage of tribal lands and resources, causing people to convert to other religions because they won’t receive acknowledgment or benefits from them.
The Union government has not yet responded to the Jharkhand Assembly’s resolution or made a commitment to include Sarna as a separate religion category in the census. Protesters have levelled accusations against political parties for allegedly trying to sow religious splits within the tribal community, implying a disregard for constitutional rights and goals.
Protesters have planned a number of actions in response to what they see as government inactivity. These include a large-scale gathering in Ranchi on December 29 that will lead into a Bharat Bandh on December 30. Their goal is to put pressure on the administration to comply with their request. They have also made a call to other states that have Sarna adherents, like West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, and Bihar, asking them to join the campaign. These steps come with a strong warning that if the government doesn’t comply with their requests before the census starts, there would be an increase in unrest.