Tribal leaders oppose ST status for Dhangars

Updated - March 29, 2016 12:46 pm IST

Published - August 03, 2015 02:43 am IST - MUMBAI:

Tribal leaders and the Dhangar (shepherd) community in Maharashtra are locked in a fight over the latter’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.The Dhangar community is currently included in the OBC category in the State. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), prior to the Assembly elections, had promised to fulfil the community’s demand for inclusion in the ST category. However, nine months into assuming power, the BJP has not acted on the demand and is now coming under fire from the community which stood behind the party and its allies during the elections.

Meanwhile, tribal leaders of the State, cutting across party lines have written a letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, reminding him that inclusion of Dhangars in the ST category would go against the Constitution.

“Dhangar is a caste and not a tribe. Some of their leaders are falsely claiming that Dhangad tribe and Dhangar are similar. This claim has not been proved since Independence,” said advocate K.C. Padvi, also a Congress MLA from Nandurbar district, in a letter to the Chief Minister. The letter is signed by all tribal MLAs belonging to the BJP, the Congress, the NCP, the Shiv Sena and the CPI(M).

Dhangar representatives do not buy the argument. “A small mistake in nomenclature has deprived us of benefits given to the STs. We supported the BJP as it promised to fulfil our demand. We are confident that it will do it,” said Mahadev Janakr, a Dhangar leader and MLC from Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, an ally of the BJP.

Crucial votes

While, Dhangars and tribals are almost equal in terms of voters, with each having around 10% population, the geographical distribution of the former gives them an advantage.

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