//SC ruling a shield for tribal rights

SC ruling a shield for tribal rights

Ranchi, Feb. 16: Constitutional and legal experts say the Supreme Court judgement that a non-tribal man, married to a tribal woman, or their children cannot claim the benefit of government reservations for the Scheduled Tribes will go a long way in securing the rights of the tribals.

While tribal organisations have hailed the decision, sociologists say the government should have enacted a law on its own to check the practice.

Convener of Adivasi Adhikar Morcha Salkhan Murmu pointed out: “Over the years, the rights of the indigenous people have always been invaded. This is a patriarchal society and a child is usually known by his father’s name. When a tribal woman marries a non-tribal, their children cannot claim they are tribals.”

The Supreme Court has observed: “The offshoots of the wedlock of a tribal woman married to a non-tribal husband cannot claim Scheduled Tribe status, as they would be brought up in the atmosphere of a forward class.”

The “transplantation of outsiders” as members of the Scheduled Tribes might dilute their way of life, the court has further observed.

The observations of the court follows an appeal filed by Anjan Kumar of Gaya, Bihar, who was born out of wedlock between a forward class man and an Oraon woman from Madhya Pradesh.

Kumar was denied posting as a Grade-A officer of Indian Information Service despite having passed Civil Services Examination in the 1993 in the Scheduled Tribes’ category. He moved the apex court after the Patna High Court rejected his petition.

The order assumes significance because there are many case studies in the state where the children of a tribal woman, married to a non-tribal, have claimed the status of tribals in government jobs and promotions.

Some of such instances even sparked unrest in 2000, which led to the formation of the Adivasi Chhatra Sangh, which opposed tribals’ privileges to “not absolute tribals”. Tribal groups were protesting the tribal status claimed by the then Chandil BDO Sandeep Baksi who had a tribal mother and a non-tribal father.

Sociologist and journalist Vasavi, whose father is a Bengali and mother a tribal, also said the order would help in stopping the infringement on tribals’ rights.

She revealed that in spite of her mother being a tribal, she never claimed the status of a tribal.

But not many toe the line of Vasavi. There are specific instances where the children born out of such wedlocks have been enjoying the privileges and reservations of the tribals.

Constitutional expert and leading lawyer Arvind Kumar Lal welcomed the Supreme Court order.

But he wondered if the authorities would really implement it in true spirit.

“Many orders are passed by the apex court which are never implemented by the authorities. The order would be helpful in checking the intrusion into the rights of the tribals,” he said.