Now a new controversy has arisen. Across the country, debates have erupted in states with significant tribal populations such as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam. Although this is not a new issue, it is being argued that in the run-up to the 2021 census, tribals are ‘not Hindu’, so they should be recognized as practitioners of a separate religion.
In the Jharkhand Assembly, a resolution was passed by the ruling party calling the tribal religion “Sarna Dharma”. Editorials are being written in various major newspapers, the gist of which is that the tribals are not Hindus, they are followers of a different religion.
Certain intellectuals have been working tirelessly since years to further anti-Hindu sentiments, which are now being raised aggressively just before the next census. They are arguing that the tribals have been forced to identity as Hindu in the census, which violates their religious identity. There are options, including Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, etc., which provide information on a person’s religion or religion during the census, but there is no alternative for tribals. So they were ‘forced’ to mention Hindu as their religion, is the argument.
Now it is being demanded that “Sarna Dharma” be added to that list. If those who support the campaign fail to do so, then they will ask tribals to register in the “other” option. For example, if 4 Crore out of the country’s 10 Crore tribal people or vanvasis mark the “other” religion, it will lead to a debate that will force the government to recognize a new religion in the next 2031 census.
But what is the purpose behind it? Why is all this being done and who is behind it? Is this just a straightforward demand, or is there some deeper, darker goal behind this campaign?
First of all, to separate the tribals from Hindu society is to create a wall of division under the pretext of creating their own unique identity and pave the way for the creation of a terrible class struggle. Once they have been separated from their thousands of years of bonding, then others will have the opportunity to accelerate conversion of tribal people to foreign religions in the future.
Fact is that this strategy has already been implemented in many African countries and its benefits have gone to those religious institutions for whom religious conversion is a business. It is part of a long-running conspiracy of those missionaries. The conspiracy includes foreign conspirators as well as some local so-called intellectuals who believe in a certain ideology.
According to the 2011 census, only 0.8% of people registered or declared themselves as “other religion”. If the tribal people think themselves as different from the Hindus, then they would have identified themselves as “other” religion in the previous censuses. Hindus, Christians, Muslims, etc., are being weighed on the same scale while discussing this issue, which is baseless.
It is said that they were compelled to write whatever they have been writing, whether Christian or Hindu. The tribals who now call themselves Christians have all converted recently, mostly in the last one or two centuries after arrival of the British colonisers, when one considers our civilisation’s antiquity.
Odisha is a land of tribes. It occupies a unique position among Bharat’s States and Union Territories for having a rich and colourful tribal culture. Also, Odisha is the land of Bhagwan Jagannath.
Who started this culture of Bhagwan Jagannath yatra? It was a Sabar Raja, a tribal king. The tradition of Rath Yatra is thousands of years old. The descendants of the Tribal Rajas (called as “Daitapati”), the Sevayatas in Puri temple, play an important role in the worship tradition of the temple.
In Ramayana, Sri Ramachandra eats at Shabari’s home. Tribes such as Santali, Vill, Munda, Mizo, etc., all have Ramayana in their culture. Not only in Jagannath Temple, but also Ayyappa Swami in Sabarimala, Tirupati Balaji in Andhra Pradesh, etc. are all connected with the tribal culture. The local tribals are worshipers at the famous Gupteswar temple in Koraput of Odisha. Even today, tribals are the main worshipers at the Maa Deuri Durga temple in Jharkhand.
The tribal tradition includes the worship of the family deity, the joint worship of the village deity and the eating of the joint offerings, which is the Hindu/Sanatani tradition. So why are they being portrayed as non-Hindus? Who is poisoning their minds? Why are they being misled due to their simplicity?
All of these conspiracies are remote-controlled from abroad. Eminent researcher Rajiv Malhotra mentions such a conspiracy in his book ‘Breaking India’. Everything he wrote in his book is now slowly happening. Nature worship is an integral part of the traditional Hindu religion. Worship of the river, the sea, the sun, the moon, the basil tree, the bel tree etc., has been going on since time immemorial. So are the tribal people who worship these different from the Hindus?
The method of worship may be slightly different. Such differences in the method of worship are only accepted in Hindu Dharma and not in any Abrahamic religion. Sarna can be a sect like Shaiva, Shakta, Vaishnava. So there is no basis for portraying tribals as non-Hindus.
Who has ever opposed the nature worship of tribals in the name of Hindu tradition? Local non-tribal people are also involved in tribal functions and celebrations. But some so-called social activists and intellectuals who are pursuing a racket of conversion are trying to prove that nature worship is not part of Hindu Dharma.
To get to the bottom of this controversy we have to go back to the 1800s. The German historian Max Müller, employed by the British, first proposed the Aryan invasion theory (AIT), which was later intensified by the British to create divisions among Bharatiyas, and this concocted theory was included in school and college textbooks.
As per AIT, Aryans came to Bharat from the shores of the Caspian Sea, expelled the natives (Dravidians) and sent them to the South. The consequences of this cooked-up, false theory can be seen today: the worship of Mahishasur instead of Maa Durga, and the worship of Ravana instead of Sri Rama.
Those who propagate AIT often call themselves as Ambedkarites. In reality, however, they do not agree with Ambedkar’s conviction. They need to read Ambedkar’s book “Who Are Shudras?” He called the Aryan-Invasion theory as fake, misleading. No one came to Bharat from the shores of the Caspian Sea. Everyone living here are natives of this land. Divisions and feudal discrimination had slowly built up in society and that needs to be addressed. Let’s not forget that we have faced brutal invasions and have been colonised for large stretches of time over the last 800 years – that is bound to have a negative impact on any society’s internal cohesion. Legislation such as the Criminal Tribes Act introduced by British after the 1857 war of independence outcast many groups from mainstream society.
Those who think that Ambedkar is anti-Hindu should know that Ambedkar, who led the creation of the Constitution of Bharat, kept the image of Sri Rama’s return to Ayodhya in the original constitution. At a constitutional meeting on the 14th, he demanded that Sanskrit should be made the national language of Bharat. Yes, he opposed caste system and accepted Buddhism. It was his protest against ill practices that had crept into society.
However, the way in which various organizations are making controversial arguments against Hindus by keeping Ambedkar’s photos, they are just using great national leaders like Ambedkar to fulfill their poisonous agenda. Renowned author Manoj Das in his book “India’s History – Answers to the Century Question” rejects the doctrine of Aryan aggression. Similarly, Dravid Frawley in his research has ruled out the possibility of an Aryan attack.
Evidence from the skeletal DNA of a nearly 5000-year-old skeleton found buried in Rakhigari, Haryana, also indicates that no mass migration took place from Central Asia to Bharat.
Let those who call tribals as non-Hindus make it clear whether they will believe the British or Babasaheb Ambedkar. In the end, the government has a big role to play in protecting the culture and religious practises of tribals, and keeping their traditions intact. The whole country has a responsibility to protect our indigenous people from soul vultures.
-by Anil Biswal (A senior journalist based in Odisha. With an experience spreading over 8 years, he has been actively involved with news reporting, news analysis and managing news operations. His experience ranges from covering national and regional politics to observing public policy, to producing research on cultural history. He tweets at @BiswalAnil)
(Featured image credit: Free Press Journal)
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