Social activists working on tribal development have lashed out at Mysuru MP Pratap Simha for his remark that adivasis converting to Christianity cannot avail themselves of government benefits.
Mr. Simha had made the remark during the District Development Coordination and Monitoring Committee meeting on Wednesday.
M.B. Prabhu, who works on tribal issues based out of Veeranahosahalli on the fringes of Nagarahole, said that the statement of the MP was not legally tenable. “If adivasis converting to other religions were to be deprived of government benefits that is due to them because of their Scheduled Tribe status, then the entire north-eastern part of the country and central India would be affected.’
The MP’s statement is codemnable as it goes against the doctrine of social justice and equality enshrined in the Constitution and the freedom to follow the religion of one’s choice, said Mr. Prabhu.
“His argument does not stand legal scrutiny and instead of worrying about conversion the MP should focus on tribal development’’, he added.
Development through Education (DEED), a Hunsur-based NGO also working on tribal issues, echoed similar views. S. Sreekanth of DEED said no credence need to be attached to Mr. Simha’s statement as the status of the adivasis and their backwardness does not change merely because of their adherence to another religion which, he said, was a matter of individual choice and faith.
Mr. Sreekanth said there are far more important issues plaguing the adivasis living in the taluks of Hunsur, H.D.Kote and Periyapatana as elsewhere in the State and Mr. Simha should resolve them first.
Listing out the issues threatening the existence of adivasis, the two social workers pointed out that the State government had rejected the applications of more than 5000 tribals seeking benefits under the Forest Rights Act from Mysuru district. The MP should apply his mind to such critical issues instead of making statements that tend to damage social harmony, according to the activists.
Mr. Sreekanth said nothing prevents the MP from urging the State government to take up the rehabilitation of more than 3,400 tribal families in Hunsur and H.D .Kote as per the recommendations of a committee established by the High Court of Karnataka.
Similarly, the tribal leaders have sought allocation of funds for implementation of Forest Rights Act and have pointed out that the applications of more than 5,000 tribal families under FRA have been rejected. “Let the MP also take up issues related to tribal development by bringing pressure on the government to club all the tribal dominated taluks and get them declared as a separate tribal constituency which will expedite development in the region’’, said Mr.S reekanth.