The Jharkhand State government in eastern India has conceded to a long-standing demand to allow tribal people to record their Sarna religious faith in the upcoming national census. State chief minister Hemant Soren’s administration passed a resolution on Nov. 11, allowing a special column for Sarna religious followers to record their faith in the 2021 decennial census.
“It is a new dawn in Jharkhand history as well as for tribal people in the state because for the last three decades we have been demanding a separate census column for the Sarna religion,” Ratan Tirkey, a member of the Tribes Advisory Committee of Jharkhand, told. “This is a victory for the voiceless,” he said.
The resolution will be sent to the federal government. Once is approved, tribal people who follow the Sarna religion will have a new option as they are currently forced to opt for the Hindu column on the census form.
Later a column called “Others’ was added for people who do not opt as Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jain or Buddhist. But it was removed in the 2011 census, which meant all others who do not come under the six religions were counted as Hindu.
The federal government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party and Hindu groups argue that all tribal people are Hindus and record it as such in census records.
As the Sarana people have not a column to mark their religion, most opt for Hindu and other religions. “This did not reflect the actual numbers of Sarna believers, Santhosh Tirkey said.
The state has 1.4 million Christians in a population of 33 million, some 26 percent of tribal people according to the 2011 census.