From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Sarna Religion
Mains level : Tribal assertiveness
West Bengal Assembly has tabled a motion to recognize Sarna Religion of the tribals and have a Sarna Code.
- 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.
Demand for Sarna Code
- Tribal groups in the region have long demanded the Sarna code, a separate religious classification in the census, recognising their status as independent religious communities.
- 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 tribe
- 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 to 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.
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