Our God, our faith: Why tribal communities want a separate religious code

Tribal religion, religious identity
There are special provisions in the constitution for protection of tribal communities and preservation of their distinct culture and practices | Image - Eunice Dhivya

“I have always struggled with my identity. In my formative years, I used to feel uncomfortable when people routinely counted me among the Hindus. I wanted to scream that ours is a distinct identity,” says Bikku Rathod who hails from a tribal community in Telangana’s Nirmal district.

For Rathod, now a tribal rights activist in his 30s, life has been tough; a troubled childhood and a daunting adulthood which always meant fighting against odds.

“I am now able to articulate my worldview better and feel comfortable telling people that tribals represent a distinct culture and deserve equal respect,” says Rathod who is now associated with an NGO engaged in helping tribal communities find market linkage for their products.

Rathod’s is no longer an isolated voice seeking respect and recognition for his roots. The Adivasi communities, scattered across India, have joined the chorus of demand for a separate religious identity. They want a separate column to be introduced for tribal religion in the upcoming 2021 census.

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