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Explainer: Reservation Row between Gonds and Lambadis in Telangana

Some leaders of Adivasi communities are demanding that Lambadis should be removed from the ST list, causing unrest and violence.
Explainer: Reservation Row between Gonds and Lambadis in Telangana

Newsclick Image by Sumit Kumar

In recent days, Telangana has witnessed a series of protests from members of tribal communities demanding changes in the reservation quota for STs. While some Gond community leaders demanded the removal of Lambadi community from the Scheduled Tribes list, Lambadi leaders have been demanding an increase in reservation quota to 12% in the State. In the second week of December, protests took a violent turn when ‘hate’ rumours got circulated in social media leading to clashes among these communities especially in Adilabad district of the state.

In April 2017, Telangana government passed the Telangana Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of seats in educational institutions and of appointments or posts in services under the state) bill, 2017 in state Assembly that increased the reservation quota for OBC (Pasmanda) Muslims to 12% and  for the STs to 10 % and sent it for Central government’s approval. After this, a number of tribal organisations have demanded to increase the ST reservation quota to 12%.

Eslavath Ram Chander Naik, Telangana state working president, All India Banjara Seva Sangam (AIBSS), said “Lambadis are called as Banjaras in other states who are in ST list. After Andhra and Hyderabad states were merged and Andhra Pradesh state was formed in 1956, Lambadis had to struggle for two complete decades till 1976 and claimed their rights to be recognized as Scheduled Tribes”, he said, condemning the Gond leaders’ demand to remove Lambadi tribes from ST list.

While Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendments) Act, 1976 came into implementation. This act provided for the inclusion and exclusion of certain castes, tribes into the list of SCs and STs. Accordingly, Sugali and Lambadi tribes in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh were recognized as Scheduled Tribes.

“Gond leaders demanding the de-listing of Lambadis from the Scheduled Tribes list is unconstitutional since the community qualifies to be in ST list. Some politicians in order to garner their political career are trying to mislead Adivasis”, Ram Chander Naik said and alleged that Soyam Babu Rao (former MLA from Boath constituency in Adilabad) was the main conspirator behind all the political tension created.

“In 1994, a demand to categorise tribal communities was raised by some politicians which had been rejected by the then Chief Minister K Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy and his government. Apart from this, there has always been peaceful co-existence among the tribes in the state”, Ram Chander Naik said.

In the state, 35 communities are recognized as Scheduled Tribes with a total population of more than 32 lakh. Lambadas constitute the highest in number with a population of nearly 25 lakh.

On December 9, Members from Gond, Koya Yerakula communities organized a public meeting named ‘Thudum Debba’ in Saroornagar grounds in Telangana’s capital city Hyderabad with the sole demand of de-listing Lambadis in the state from the Scheduled Tribes. After four days, on December 13, Lambadis organized their own public meeting named ‘Lambadila Mahagarjana' in the same grounds demanding an increase in reservation quota to 12% for STs in the newly formed Telangana State as earlier promised by Telangana Rastra Samiti (TRS) in their election manifesto. The meeting was led by MLAs and community leaders from Lambadis in the state which has ended with calling for peace among tribal communities.

The tussle between the tribes took a violent turn when alleged activists of Adivasi Joint Action Committee set an Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) office on fire in remote Medaram village. This was followed by alleged attacks on the properties and vehicles belonging to Lambadis in Utnoor village of Adilabad district. Later false news around the attacks has been circulated with rumours such as five persons from the Lambadi community being killed further aggravating the situation. Telangana Police have denied any loss of life but said that two persons, Ashraf and Ganesh Naik died in a road accident near Hasnapur village in Adilabad. Newsclick collected the screenshots of false news circulated in this regard.

Thodasam Bhim Rao, State Secretary, Telangana Adivasi Girijana Sangham (TAGS) said that the Telangana Government must take up immediate measures by consulting all political parties and tribal organisations and settle the ST reservation issue. “One reason for the ongoing dispute between Adivasis and Lambadis is because of the persons migrating from Maharashtra into border districts Adilabad, Nizamabad and Medak who claim to have ST certificates,” he said.

Speaking about the social conditions among Lambadis, he said “Lambadis, who are more in population in the old districts of Nalgonda, Mahaboobnagar, Ranga Reddy, Khammam have benefited only a little from reservations. Poor families from the community even resort to selling their babies for a small amount of money, implying the deep-rooted poverty among them.”

Bhim Rao said that benefits under Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) have been mostly claimed by Adivasis as their presence is in the Scheduled Areas in the state. “Government must formulate special policies for the development of neglected Adivasis and keep a check on the fake ST certificates being issued.”

Bhim Rao said that in recent times, the rumours are making rounds in villages. “In Rampur village when two adivasis died allegedly due to alcohol poisoning, news in neighboring villages was spread that Lambadi youth were responsible for their deaths. However, responding to inquiries, villagers clarified that the cause of death was due to alcoholism.”

According to various reports, such political tensions among ST communities have taken place in one or other part of the country. Recently, before Gujarat assembly elections, members from Bhil, Vasava, and Gamit communities have demanded Rabari, Bharwad and Charan communities to be removed from ST list which was contested by the government. Apart from this, there are many tribals communities who struggle hard to claim their right to get ST certificate from the concerned authorities.

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