Tribes in News

Religious Code for Sarna Tribals

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sarna Religion

Mains level : Tribal culture and its conservation

The Jharkhand government convened a special Assembly session to pass a resolution to recognise Sarna religion and include it as a separate code in the Census of 2021.

The Sarna Religion

  • The followers of Sarna faith believe pray to nature.
  • The holy grail of the faith is “Jal (water), Jungle (forest), Zameen (land)” and its followers pray to the trees and hills while believing in protecting the forest areas.
  • Jharkhand has 32 tribal groups of which eight are from Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.
  • While many follow Hindu religion, some have converted to Christianity — this has become one of the planks of demanding a separate code “to save religious identity”— as various tribal organisations put it.

A sacred grove is any grove of trees that are of special religious importance to a particular culture. Can you link this concept with the traditional practice of Sarna Tribals?

Why need Sarna Code?

  • It is believed that 50 lakhs tribal in the entire country put their religion as ‘Sarna’ in the 2011 census, although it was not a code.
  • The resolution will seek a special column for followers of the Sarna religion in the Census, 2021. At present, they are not classified as a separate entity.

Politics around the code

  • Many of the tribals who follow this faith have later converted to Christianity—the state has more than 4% Christians most of whom are tribals.
  • Some who still follow the Sarna faith believe the converted tribals are taking the benefits of reservation as a minority as well as the benefits are given to Schedule Tribes.
  • They also believe that benefits should be given specifically to them and not those who have converted.

What sense does a separate code make?

  • The protection of their language and history is an important aspect of tribals.
  • Between 1871 and 1951, the tribals had a different code. However, it was changed around 1961-62.
  • Experts argue that when today the entire world is focusing on reducing pollution and protecting the environment, it is prudent that Sarna becomes a religious code as the soul of this religion is to protect nature and the environment.

Back2Basics: Census of India

  • The decennial Census of India has been conducted 15 times, as of 2011.
  • While it has been undertaken every 10 years, beginning in 1872 under British Viceroy Lord Mayo, the first complete census was taken in 1881.
  • Post-1949, it has been conducted by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
  • All the censuses since 1951 were conducted under the 1948 Census of India Act.
  • The last census was held in 2011, whilst the next will be held in 2021.
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