The Sarna tribals in Jharkhand are once again divided over the VHP plan to carry soil from sarna sthals, the place of worship of tribals to Ayodhya for use in the construction of the Ram temple.
Barring the tribal people who converted to Christianity, other tribals perform their religious practices at Sarna sthals, scattered across the state. BJP leaders from tribal community headed by Mandar former MLA Gangotri Kujur, Megha Oraon, former Khijri MLA Ram Kumar Pahan and Ranchi Mayor Asha Lakra this week collected soil from sarna sthals.
However, some tribal associations are opposing the VHP’s plan for carrying soil from our sarna sthals to Ayodhya because the tribal communities claimed that they are distinct ethnic groups with their own cultural identity.
Kendriya Sarna Samiti president Ajay Tirkey said, “We have our own religious beliefs and practices and this is an attempt to interfere with the sentiments of the tribals. Sarna Sthals are a religious place for us and no one is allowed to pick holy soil from the place. We have nothing to do with the temple they will construct as we have our own religious identity.”
The Samiti has even threatened that they will not allow BJP tribal leaders such as Gangotri Kujur, Megha Oraon, Khijri former MLA Ram Kumar Pahan and Ranchi Mayor Asha Lakra and others involved in carrying soil from Sarna sthals from entering villages.
However, the tribal leaders who were behind carrying soil from sarna sthals claimed that they have not done anything wrong. Former MLA from Mandar Gangotri Kujur said, “As Sarna sthal is a religious place and soil was being taken for religious function. We first performed puja with full rituals then the soil was picked.”
Kujur said, “Though Sarna tribals have their own religious identity. We have links with ancient Hinduism. Our birth, marriage and other religious ceremonies have similarity to ancient Hinduism.” The former MLA claimed that Lord Rama spent 14 years of his exile with Vanvasi and Lord Rama defeated Ravan with the help of Vanvasi. Referring to Ramayana she said that tribal people had great respect for Ramachandra and even helped him in his mission to rescue Sita. She pointed out that tribals consider Hanumanji the most trusted lieutenant of Lord Rama as their own and they even worship him. Kujur said, “In tribal custom Lord Shiva and Goddess Parwati have great importance.”
Echoing the views of Gangotri Kujur, Megha Oraon of Jharkhand Adivasi Sarna Vikas Samiti said, “Some tribals are opposing carrying soil from soil sthal for Ayodhya on the direction of Christian Missionaries.” She said, “Why these tribals are not opposing when some Christian Missionaries install Mata Mariyam statue in red white saree which is of tribal identity.”
A sociology professor of Ranchi University requesting anonymity said, “There is a political motive behind the entire episode. Gangotri Kujur, Megha Oraon and others have carried soil from Sarna Sthals on VHP and BJP directions and those opposing Congress and JMM sympathisers.”
This is not for the first time that there is a rift among the tribal outfits as around two and half year back then Raghubar Das government introduced an anti-conversion bill which discourages conversion to another religion through force or allurement, many tribals having affiliation to Church opposed it saying that the law aims to divide Sarnas and Christian tribals.