ACF condemns demand for cancellation of ST status of Christian tribals

ITANAGAR, 9 Feb: The Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF) has strongly denounced the Janajati Dharma-Sanskriti Suraksa Manch’s (JDSSM) recent call to march to Dispur (Assam) on 12 February to demand denial of ST status to Christian tribals.

Terming the move “mischievous and misleading,” the ACF said, “The JDSSM argues that by accepting Christianity, the tribals have lost their ST status. In this context, it is pertinent to note that the official website of the ministry of tribal affairs, government of India, clearly defines what elements go to make up the identity of members of scheduled tribes.”

The ACF stated that, according to the website, “The criterion followed for specification of a community as scheduled tribes are indications of primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness of contact with the community at large, and backwardness.”

“A particular religious identity has not been mentioned either as a qualifying or disqualifying factor. The same website gives directions to officers to issue ST certificates. The points to be observed by the officers are that the person and his parents actually belong to the community claimed; that the community is included in the presidential order specifying the STs in relation to the state concerned; that the person belongs to that state and to that area within that state in respect of which the community has been scheduled,” it said, adding that “the person may profess any religion,” as long as he/she is a permanent resident on the date of notification of the presidential order applicable in his case. “The fourth criterion in the above list shows that religion plays no role in the question of eligibility to scheduled tribe status,” the ACF added.

Claiming that the move to link religion to ST status is stemming from ignorance and malice, “intended solely to cause polarisation among peacefully cohabiting tribals,” the ACF appealed to “the responsible people in the government” to “clarify the issue and put an end to such unhealthy polemics.”