`Disenfranchise non-tribals since there was an alarming increase in their population'
Raipur: A controversy is raging in Chhattisgarh after a BJP MP demanded `disenfranchisement' of non-tribals, alleging that there was an alarming increase in their population in the tribal areas of the State.
As representatives of various organisations and opposition Congress workers came out on the streets in Kanker and burnt effigies of BJP MP Sohan Potai and others, the State BJP distanced itself from the controversy saying the party did not approve his reported remarks on non-tribals.
Semi-urban areas like Pakhanjor, Bande, Badgaon, Antagarh and Bhanupratapur in Bastar region witnessed agitation on the issue on Monday, markets remained closed on Tuesday at many places to protest the tribal MP's comments against non-tribals. The Youth Congress called for a bandh in Bhanupratappur on Tuesday.
The trouble erupted when Mr Potai, who represents Kanker in the Lok Sabha, reportedly demanded disenfranchisement of non-tribals, while addressing a public meeting organised by Adivasi Sangharsh Morcha on December 28 in protest against the recommendations of the de-limitation commission.
"Non-tribals had outnumbered the tribals in Chhattisgarh," he said and demanded preparation of list of all those non-tribals migrated to Chhattisgarh.
As local newspapers quoted Mr Potai as saying: "I wonder whether the non-tribals were producing children after consuming Viagra," Opposition parties and other organisations started protests against the tribal BJP and his supporters.
However, senior tribal leader and State BJP President Shiv Pratap Singh disagreed with Mr Potai's perception saying that his party was not in agreement with such views.
"Ours is a mass party having representation of all sections of the society and hence it was not in favour of any such demand," he said.
Reacting on the issue, the Leader of the Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha, Mahendra Karma, also a tribal, described Mr Potai's statement as `irresponsible' and said such observations could result in spreading casteist feelings in the tribal-dominated Bastar region.
"This statement is an insult to the people of Bastar who are already facing the problem of naxalites for over three decades," he added.
Condemning the BJP leader's remarks, Mr Karma appealed the people "not to fall prey to the designs of vested interests to disturb peace, harmony and brotherhood in Bastar region".
Former Union Minister V.C. Shukla urged the ruling BJP to make it clear whether it endorsed its Member of Parliament's views on non-tribals. "If it is Mr Potai's personal views, he is not a well-wisher of the tribals," he added.
After the formation of Chhattisgarh, he said, some vested interests had tried to fan regional and casteist feelings but they did not succeed as the people understood their designs.
Mr. Shukla said the de-limitation commission had based its recommendations on the census report by following the rules and procedures. Besides, the commission had also included peoples' representatives in its committees. He said Mr Potai should have taken up the matter with the commission well in time instead of indulging in such propaganda. -- UNI