Jamshedpur: The former MP of Jamshedpur, Shailendra Mahato, has once again shown his political acumen by raising the Kudmi-Kudmali issue forcefully and ensuring that he succeeds in setting the political narrative of the state well-before the run up to the next Parliament elections begin.
Shailendra Mahato’s timing seems to be near-perfect. He is likely to gain support from all the political parties who would like to win the support of the sizable Kudmi community in Jharkhand.
And if everything goes as planned by Shailendra Mahato, most political parties, including Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, would not be in a position to oppose the demand of inclusion of Kudmis in the list of scheduled tribes.
On Wednesday, a huge rally of Kudmi community members was held at Badakankara Grounds in Seraikela. The rally was presided over by Manohar Mahato. The leaders raised the demand that the Kudmi caste be included in the list of Scheduled Tribes.
Following the event, a delegation of the Samaj submitted to the Deputy Commissioner of the district a memorandum addressed to the Governor requesting that the Kudmi caste be included to the list of STs as soon as feasible.
Hundreds of Kudmi community members from the district spoke up over their ST rights and privileges.
Ajit Prasad Mahato of tribal Kudmi Samaj, the head of Rail Roko Andolan, stated that Kudmi Samaj is raising awareness in society through mass movements in its battle for survival.
The goal of our campaign is to include the Kudmi community as a Scheduled Tribe, to place the Kudmali language in the Eighth Schedule, and to put the Sarna Dharma Code into action.
To bring the movement in Jharkhand and Odisha to a head, a conference will be held on January 10 at the block level, and on March 12 at the district level.
The Kudmi leaders have chalked out a slew of programs to highlight their demands in a big way. An assembly gherao as well as economic blockade and rail roko programmes are being planned too.
Interestingly, Surya Singh Besra, a former MLA in Bihar, has also lent support to the demand for inclusion of Kurmis in the list of scheduled tribes.
His rationale is that Jharkhand cannot obtain tribal state status unless Kudmi is made tribal too as at present only 26 percent of the state is tribal, while after giving Kudmis the status of tribal this would increase to around 50 percent. He thinks that this will pave the path for Jharkhand to gain tribal state status.
In his speech, Besra said that the Kudmi caste has played an essential part in the development of the state, using the motto Majhi-Mahto Bhai-Bhai.
Besra stated that on November 23, 2004, the Arjun Munda administration suggested that the Kudmi tribe be included in the Scheduled Tribes. Arjun Munda is now the Minister of Tribal Ministry in the Central Government. He recently granted Scheduled Tribe recognition to 12 tribes, including his Tamadia tribe, but has abandoned the Kudmi tribe.
Gomia MLA Lambodar Mahato stated that the desire for the Kudmi tribe to be listed as a Scheduled Tribe is not new. This demand has been ongoing for a long time, and Ajsu will continue to speak up in the future, whether in an assembly or a public gathering.
Former Jamshedpur MP Shailendra Mahato stated that before 1950, the totemic Kudmi tribe of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, and Assam was mentioned in the primitive tribes, but when the list of Scheduled Tribes was prepared, only Kudmi was removed.
He said that except the Kudmis all of the primitive tribes were on the list of Scheduled Tribes. Since then, the Kudmi tribe has been fighting for inclusion on the ST list for 72 years. It is the primary responsibility.
Shailendra Mahato’s first move is clever and is likely to set the political agenda and discussion during the next few months.
He has been absent from the political hubbub for quite some time. However, it seems, he has decided to be back in time.
It would be interesting to see what response his latest move draws from JMM leaders and the most influential BJP leader of the region – Arjun Munda- who now heads the union ministry for tribal affairs.
These responses would determine the tenor of political narrative during the upcoming months.