Kurmi community warns of rail blockade for ST status - Hindustan Times
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Kurmi community warns of rail blockade for ST status

By, Jamshedpur
Sep 15, 2023 09:57 PM IST

“Our rail roko will continue until the Centre includes the Kurmi community in the ST list and our language Kurmali, in the eighth schedule of the Constitution, and a separate religion code for us. We appeal to railway passengers to bear with us since we have been left with no other option. We have been agitating for the past 73 years,” said AKS central secretary Jairam Mahato.

The Adivasi Kurmi Samaj (AKS) has once again called for an indefinite ‘Rail Teka-Dagar Chheka’ (rail blockade movement) at eight railway stations across Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Odisha from September 20 to push their demand of getting the Kurmi community included in the list of Scheduled Tribes (ST), leaders said on Friday.

The AKS has called for an indefinite ‘Rail Teka-Dagar Chheka’ to push their demand of getting the Kurmi community included in ST. (HT File)
The AKS has called for an indefinite ‘Rail Teka-Dagar Chheka’ to push their demand of getting the Kurmi community included in ST. (HT File)

“We will organise indefinite sit-in dharnas at Gomoh in Giridih district, Muri in Ranchi district, Manoharpur in West Singhbhum district, and Nimdih in Seraikela-Kharsawan district of Jharkhand; Amlajuri in Rairangpur and Baripada in Odisha; and Kustaur in Purulia district and Khemasuli in West Midnapore district of West Bengal from September 20,” Harmohan Mahato, AKS central spokesperson, told HT on Friday.

Harmohan further said that they would “not be fooled by the sending of the Cultural Research Institute (CRI) report by the West Bengal government or the Tribal Research Institute (TRI) report by Jharkhand”.

“Our rail roko will continue until the Centre includes the Kurmi community in the ST list and our language Kurmali, in the eighth schedule of the Constitution, and a separate religion code for us. We appeal to railway passengers to bear with us since we have been left with no other option. We have been agitating for the past 73 years,” said AKS central secretary Jairam Mahato.

“We don’t want to hit the tracks if Centre initiates talks beforehand. We want direct intervention by home minister Amit Shah in initiating talks with Adivasi Kurmi Samaj leaders, the tribal ministry, and representatives of the three states where 2.5-3 crore Kurmis live. We want the formation of a special committee to study our demand and find a solution based on historical documents,” said Harmohan.

“Former Jharkhand CM Arjun Munda recommended the inclusion of Kurmis in the ST list in 2004. Now that he is the Union tribal affairs minister, he is seeking the TRI report. He included Tamaria, Pan, Bhokta, etc., in the ST list, but why play games with Kurmis? Kurmis were listed among the aboriginal tribes vide notification no-550 in 1913 during the British era, but when the Centre notified ST and ST lists on September 6, 1950, Kurmis were put in the list of other backward castes (OBC) in Bihar, Bengal, and Odisha,” said Harmohan.

During the chairmanship of Som Munda and P. Oraon, TRI reported against including Kurmis in the ST list in 2004. Earlier, the Lokur Commission recommended against the inclusion of the Kurmis in the ST list in 1965.

Former Jamshedpur MP and senior Kurmi leader Shailendra Mahato expressed his moral support for the AKS movement and said that this “historical and cultural mistake” must be corrected now.

“A delegation of 50 MPs met Nehruji. The Arjun Munda government had sent a recommendation, and 45 MLAs sent a signed memorandum, to which incumbent CM Hemant Soren is also a signatory. Why is the Jharkhand government silent now? Mamata Banerjee has sent an amended CRI report. So, the focus this time is on Jharkhand,” said Shailendra.

The rail blockade movement by the AKS between September 20 and 25, 2022, and between April 5 and 10, 2023, disrupted railway traffic. More than 500 mail, express, and passenger trains had to be cancelled, numerous trains were diverted or terminated short, leaving 400,000-500,000 passengers stranded.

Loading of over 300 goods trains could not be done, while as many goods trains were stranded midway, causing a loss of over 2000 crore in 10 days of rail blockade, twice under the South Eastern (SE) Railway, officials said.

Meanwhile, SE Railways has written to the chief secretaries of the three states, apprising them about the movement.

“We are negotiating with the state governments of the three states involved to settle the matter with AKS and ensure adequate deployment of state police, magistrates, and GRP so that this issue is defused in advance. We have requested measures to ensure that the agitators are not able to reach the railway tracks. We have written to the chief secretaries of Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Odisha already. In September last year and April this year, over 500 trains had to be cancelled, causing huge revenue loss and passenger harassment,” said Aditya Choudhary, South Eastern Railway chief public relations officer (CPRO), to HT on Friday.

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