Mumbai: Dhangar or the Shepherd community in the state, having a stronghold in 26 Lok Sabha constituencies out of the total 48 in Maharashtra, is creating pressure on the government to include them in Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. However, the state can not rule out constitutional amendments and judgement of Allahabad High Court in this regard and include them in ST category. The judgement has clearly stated Dhangad and Dhangar are two distinct communities except similarities in nomenclature and Dhangar.
For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, it seems difficult to fulfil poll promises which may lead the community to go against the BJP in the next election. Dhangar community had staged a state-wide street protest on August 13 to attract attention of the government towards their demand. Dhangar is included in Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) in Maharashtra whereas in other state such as Madhya Pradesh, Dhangad has status of Scheduled Tribes. Dr Vikas Mahatme, BJP MP and president of Dhangar Sangharsh Samiti has demanded to include Dhangar in STs like Dhangad. The leader always claims that Dhangar and Dhangad are same, but with a different spelling, due to which they are denied reservation of ST category.
Devendra Fadnavis-led government has assigned to find out socio-economical background of Dhangar community to Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS). The report of TISS is expected to be submitted by August end. A senior official from Law and Judiciary department clarified Dhangad-Oraon has been included in the ST category through decisive criteria specified by Central government. “Even the 27th report of Standing Committee on Labour and Welfare with regards to SCs and STs order (Second Amendment) Bill, 2002 has specifically recorded that Dhangad and Dhangar are different. Traditional occupation of Dhangad is cultivation and Dhangar has cattle rearing and weaving of wool,” said the official. He added, even the divisional bench of Allahabad High Court has rejected the argument of spelling mistake sought to be raised by Dhangar community in case of All India Dhangar Mahasangh Versus State of Uttar Pradesh through its judgement dated March 14, 2012.
Padmakar Valvi, former minister of Congress and tribal leader who had raised this issue during 2014 assembly elections when Fadnavis, being state president of the BJP had assured to give STs status to Dhangar as poll assurance. Valvi said, “Dhangad is a sub group of Oraon located in Melghat, Amravati district, Kelapur and Wani tehsil in Yeotmal, Gadchiroli and Sironcha tehisl of Chandrapur and therefore included in the list of STs. Dhangar are non-tribal and claiming constitutional entry with false contention of spelling mistake.”
“According to Constitutional amendments in 1956, 1976 and 2002, it is highly impossible that the state can suggest to the Centre to include the community in STs,” said the Congress leader. The state government attempted to do the same in June 1979, but at a time also realised that parameters laid down by the Central government were not satisfied by the community, taken back the proposal on November 6, 1981.
Tribal Advisory Council, constitutional body has also raised objection to include Dhangar in STs category. Meanwhile, with a majority in 26 LS and 48 assembly constituencies, Dhangar leaders are bringing pressure on state for their demands. The community has called for a morcha in Kolhapur on August 24. Vilasrao Waghmode, district president said it will observe a silent morcha. Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) of Jankar is with BJP at present but, the pressure from the community may force him to change his political strategy after the report submission by TISS.