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Hemant led all-party delegation from Jharkhand to meet Amit Shah on Sept 26

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BJP not part of the team to discuss caste census, separate Sarna code 

Ranchi, September 24: Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren will lead an all-party delegation to meet Union home minister Amit Shah on September 26 to submit a memorandum demanding caste census and a separate column for Sarna tribal religion in the 2021 census.

The meeting is being held days after Soren on September 7 wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking an appointment for the delegation over the issue.

People aware of the matter said the Prime Minister’s Office instead suggested a meeting with Shah as census comes under his ministry’s preview.

“The meeting has been fixed at 4 pm at home minister Amit Shah’s residence on Sunday. We have invited all parties besides our allies Congress and RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal to be a part of the delegation). We have got confirmation from the Left parties and AJSU Party. We have also invited the BJP to join the delegation. It is now up to them to decide,” said Supriyo Bhattacharya, a spokesperson for Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

Jharkhand BJP chief Deepak Prakash earlier this week said they would not join any such delegation.

The Jharkhand assembly last year in November in a day-long special session adopted a unanimous resolution demanding a separate Sarna tribal religion column in the 2021 census and sent it to the Union government.

Insiders in the JMM, which is heading a coalition government in the state, pointed out how the PM had agreed to meet Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, who is leading an NDA government, and  accused the PM of  “step brotherly treatment to Jharkhand”.

Addressing the media, JMM general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharjee said, “On September 8, the  CM had written to the PM asking for his time to lead a nine-member delegation of parties to discuss the need for a  caste-based census in the nationwide population survey. Also, we want to press for the implementation of a Sarna code, a separate religion column for the Adivasis. However, we received an email from the PM’s residential office the next day with advice to meet the Home minister as the survey comes under the jurisdiction of this ministry. We hope to get an appointment with Amit Shahji either this week or next week.

“Maybe next time he will spare time if he is really concerned about Jharkhand and its needs.” 

Opposition BJP has refused to be a part of a Hemant delegation. State unit president Deepak Prakash claimed the JMM never extended a formal invite, but that even it did, the BJP would not be a part of it. 

“The Hemant Soren government is doing cheap politics over caste-based census and OBC reservation. We will not be a part of any such trick. BJP will rather tend to meet PM or others at the Centre on its own to raise state’s issues as and when needed,” he said.

Incidentally, the Central government had on Thursday effectively ruled out a caste census in 2021, the Centre has told the Supreme Court that such an exercise “would not be feasible” and that “exclusion of information regarding any other caste”, apart from SCs and STs, “from the purview of the census is a conscious policy decision”.

This was the key submission of the Ministry of Social Justice in an affidavit filed in the top court in response to a plea by the Maharashtra government seeking a direction to the Census Department to collect information on Backward Class of Citizens (BCC) in the 2021 enumeration.

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