Kurmi community’s Rail Roko protest demanding ST status continues

Community also demands inclusion of their language in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution; train services affected in Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal for second straight day

KurmiImage courtesy: PTI

The Kurmi community’s protest demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status continued on Wednesday in West Bengal. The protest that is being led by five different groups from Jangal Mahal representing interests of the Kurmi community began on Tuesday with thousands of people holding demonstrations in Purulia and West Midnapore in West Bengal blocking railway tracks.

Protests were also held in Odisha and Jharkhand. Apart from ST status, protesters are also demanding the inclusion of the Kurmali language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

Kurmis are traditionally a community of tillers spread across the Gangetic Plains, and in West Bengal, they form a significant chunk of voters in at least 35 Assembly constituencies in the Jangal Mahal area spread across the districts of Bankura, Purulia, Jhargram and Midnapore.

At present the community has been included in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) list, but members want the ST status that the community held till 1931 before India gained independence. They were subsequently excluded from the list for unknown reasons.

Rajesh Mahata, the West Bengal committee president of the Kurmi Samaj organization, told The Telegraph, “We were supposed to have been designated as the ST shortly after Independence, but that has never happened. We demand that our community and language are given their due.”

In a joint statement, Jharkhand Kurmi Vikas Morcha central president Sheetal Ohdar and spokesperson Om Prakash Mahto, said that the agitation would continue till the community’s demands were met. Odhar told TT, “Unless the central government announces to include Kurmi in the ST list, we will continue our agitation. If the government does not take a decision on this soon, the political parties may have to bear the brunt of it in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.”

As a result of the protests, train services were disrupted along the South Eastern Railway in all three states with several trains cancelled on both Tuesday and Wednesday. The Economic Times reports that protesters blocked all trains to Kharagpur, Khemasuli and Purulia.

This is the second major protest surrounding exclusion from the ST list in eastern India. Last Thursday, six tribal groups from Assam blocked National Highway 37 in Chabua after discovering that they had been excluded from the Centre’s revised ST list. The Tai Ahom, Moran, Matak, Chutias, Koch Rajbonshis and Tea Tribes have long been demanding ST status in Assam.


Still no recognition for non-ST tribes in India

Assam: Six tribal groups protest non-inclusion in Centre’s revised ST list



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