Say it is connected to the upcoming panchayat polls
A recommendation to shift one community from Other Backward Classes (OBC) category to the list of Scheduled Tribes (STs) by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has enraged the tribal communities of Bengal.
In her February 13 letter to the Union Tribal Affairs Minister, Ms. Banerjee specified reasons why the group — Kurmi Mahatos, mentioned as Kurmis in the letter — should be included in the tribal list.
In her letter, the second since April 2017, Ms. Banerjee argued that the “beliefs & social customs” of the Kurmi Mahatos “closely resemble those of the tribal people.”
Sarada Prasad Kisku, the President of Federation of Adivasi Association, an umbrella organisation of tribal groups, however, said: “Kurmi Mahatos cannot be considered Adivasis [tribals] by a long shot.”
“In British India they were considered tribals as many non-urban, non-English speaking village folks were considered original inhabitants. But the same reason cannot be applied in 2018 to consider Kurmi Mahatos as a tribe as they mainly follow rituals of the Hindu upper caste,” said Mr. Kisku.
The “real reason” to recommend Kurmi Mahatos is connected to forthcoming Panchayat polls, he added. Kurmi Mahatos reside in large numbers in pockets of western Bengal.
For instance, in Purulia, they are a little less than 40% and can play “a significant role” against Trinamool Congress (TMC) if they are “not appeased” by the ruling party.