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Why Adivasis Are Claiming Sarna As Their Religion

Tribal Rights

Why Adivasis Are Claiming Sarna As Their Religion

The Adivasis of the Chota Nagpur plateau have their own vision of the world, a vision once again under threat by the so-called ‘civilised’ forces of the world

Our world, our religion: Protest for the Sarna Adivasi Code Photo: Sanjib Dutta

Everywhere I went in Jharkhand, I was greeted with ‘Johar!’ an expression specific to Adivasi identity that means ‘Respect’ or ‘Salutation’ and is part of their religion. In 1956, when the State Reorganisation Commission (SRC) denied the claims of a separate state of Jharkhand, they cited lack of lingual unity.  Adivasis were yet to consider religion as a point of convergence.

To search for a new point of unity that might facilitate the claims of a separate state, Nirmal Minz, then the Principal of Ranchi’s Gossner College, had said in 1983, in a historic conference entitled ‘The Search for Unity in Diversity: The Crisis of Identity in Chhota Nagpur,’ that the ‘predominant religion of this region, ‘Sarna’ could be the centre of unification. In reference to the struggles of fierce Adivasi fighters Birsa Munda and Jatra Bhagat, he said that Sarna could be a force in the ‘struggle of Adivasi people’. On the other hand, Van Exern of the Catholic Cooperative Society believed that embracing of such dharma would amount to mere ‘appeasement’ of some spirits and would weaken the ‘struggle’.

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