Jamshedpur, Nov 11 (PTI) Tribal activists on Saturday threatened self immolation if Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not make any announcement on the long-standing demand for recognition of Sarna religion during his proposed November 15 visit to Jharkhand.
The activists will also observe a fast between 10 AM to 1 PM in Jharkhand and other states on the day in support of the demand, 'Adivasi Sengel Abhiyan' (ASA) president Salkhan Murmu said.
Modi is scheduled to visit Ulihatu, the birth place of tribal icon Birsa Munda, in Khunti district of the state on his birth anniversary on November 15, which is also the Jharkhand Foundation day.
The threat was issued by two activists of the ASA but their decision on it was made independently, Murmu said.
"We are expecting the prime minister to make an announcement on our long-standing demand for the recognition of a separate 'Sarna' religion ... If he does not make the Centre's stand clear over our demand, the two activists have decided to immolate themselves at 4 pm at Ulihatu and Bokaro," Murmur, a former parliamentarian said.
ASA held a rally in Ranchi on November 8 demanding the Centre's recognition to tribal Sarna religion.
Incidentally, the Centre declared November 15 as 'Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas' since 2021.
Murmu said majority of the states in the country like Punjab, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal were formed on linguistic basis to preserve their cultures, identities and languages but Santhali, despite being recongnised under the 8th schedule of Constitution in 2003, was not made the official language of Jharkhand till date though it was carved out of Bihar after a long tribal movement for statehood.
ASA leaders from Assam, Bengal and Jharkhand in a meeting on Friday decided to hold a rail and road blockade in support of Sarna religion on December 30.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren earlier this week said Modi is welcome in Jharkhand but the decision to recognise the 'Sarna' religion is still pending with the Centre.
"We have already sent all the papers (related to demands for a separate Sarna religious code for tribals) to him ... Now he has to take a decision on it," Soren said on Thursday.
The recognition of Sarna religion is necessary to identify tribals as different from the followers of other religions and to ensure the protection of their constitutional rights, he said.
Soren in a letter to the prime minister in September had sought the recognition of the 'Sarna' code for tribals and claimed that their population in the region has declined to 26 per cent from 38 per cent in the last eight decades.
Sarna is a religious faith of the Indian subcontinent, predominantly followed by indigenous communities in the Chota Nagpur Plateau region across states like Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh. It holds the distinction of being India's largest tribal religion. PTI COR KK KK