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Hatti Community's Quest For ‘Tribal’ Status Grows In Poll-bound Himachal

The elections will be held in Himachal Pradesh in November 2022 to elect 68 members of the legislative assembly. Currently, Bhartiya Janata Party's Jai Ram Thakur is the chief minister of the state

Photo Credit : Abhishek Sharma

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People of Hatti Community performing famous Pahadi Nati

As Himachal Pradesh is all set to witness legislative elections by year-end, the demand to include the three-lakh “Hatti Community” in the list of Scheduled Tribes (ST) in the state has once again gained momentum, as every prominent political party betting their chance on the issue. 

The demand of the community has allegedly been hanging in fire since 1967. However, after the strong protests across the region, residents of district Sirmaur of Himachal Pradesh managed to spread their voice outside the state as it finally reached New Delhi

Amidst the election in the state, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government is reportedly considering resolving the issue by granting “tribal” status to the Trans-Giri region of Himachal Pradesh’s Sirmaur district. If the central government passes, the proposal would mark a move away from its earlier position on the same matter.

On 04 April 2022, while talking about the matter, the Minister of State (MoS) for Tribal Affairs Bisheswar Tudu said that the proposal could not be considered due to a lack of requisite criteria. He was responding to a question in Lok Sabha by the Congress member from Mandi Pratibha Singh on whether the Trans Giri Area of HP has been granted the status of Tribal Affairs. 

In his reply, he said that the provisions of Article 244 of the Constitution enable the designation of certain areas as Scheduled and Tribal Areas and for their administration. 

The Constitution provides for two types of areas, areas designated as "Scheduled Areas” in terms of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution and areas designated as "Tribal Areas' in terms of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, he said. 

The government said that for declaration of scheduled areas the criteria followed are: preponderance of tribal population, compactness and reasonable size of the area, a viable administrative entity such as a district, block or taluk, and economic backwardness of the area as compared to neighbouring areas.

"The proposal was examined in the Ministry and could not be considered due to lack of requisite criteria, as mentioned above. Accordingly, the state government of Himachal Pradesh was intimated that the proposal in the current form for declaration of scheduled areas could not be considered," he added. 

Following the decision, the voters of the region threatened to boycott the elections if their demands is not met. 

Over the years, numbers of people have raised the matter on several platforms and approached all political parties. Also, right before the elections in the hill state, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur met Union Home Minister Amit Shah to discuss this issue. 

After the meeting, Chief Minister Thakur Took to Twitter and wrote, "The central government has taken up the issue of giving tribal status to the Hati community of Sirmaur district at the appropriate level and accorded priority to the issue neglected by the previous Congress government."

CM Thakur informed that about three lakh people of 154 panchayats in the Trans Giri area would be benefited from this step.

In the Sirmaur district, the Hati community lives in four assembly constituencies of Sirmaur district which include Shillai, Paonta Sahib, Renuka and Pachhad.

The history: 

Talking about the Hatti community, it has a presence in nine seats in two districts of Shimla and Sirmour. 

The Hattis occupy a region between two waterways called 'Giri' and 'Tons'. Tons isolates it from the Jaunsar Bawar area of Uttrakhand. The Hattis who live in the Trans-Giri region in Himachal Pradesh and Jaunsar Bawar in Uttarakhand were once a major part of the royal estate of Sirmaur until Jaunsar Bawar's partition in 1815.

It is a well-sew local area with having similar culture and lifestyle. This area got its name from their custom of selling local vegetables, crops, meat, fleece and so forth at tiny markets called 'Hatts' in towns. There is also a  rigid caste system among the Hattis. The 'Bhat' and 'Khash' are the upper caste people while the 'Badhois' are underneath them. Generally, inter-caste marriages and relationships are not acceptable. 

Hence, this tribal status brings worry to lower caste people as they fear after the implementation of this status, they will lose the constitutional reservations which help them to secure government jobs. 

The politics: 

For a long time, the Hatti region had been a Congress stronghold. However, as Congress is facing an existential crisis, the BJP has made advances by getting the backing of the Hatti community in the Parliamentary elections. 

Interestingly, BJP in its 2009 election manifesto promised to give ST status to the Hattis and has been doing so in their ensuing manifestos too.

Not falling behind, in 2016, the then Congress Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh sought the issue with the central government and pushed for tribal status to the Trans-Giri region and DodraKwar in Rohru. Nonetheless, the proposition was turned down that the Ethnography Report was deficient and requested a complete Ethnographic review. 

Also, a fresh study was conducted by Himachal Pradesh University and a new report was submitted in March by the BJP government.

The political benefit: 

The ST status is a much sought-after categorisation in the country, as it permits better tapping of reservation benefits in contrast with the OBC and SC records, which are as of now overwhelmed areas of strength.

For BJP, any such strategy will be a political drive intended to charm the citizens/voters of the district, particularly the politically powerful Hatti people group that has been requesting this status for a couple of years. It would furthermore conciliate the upper stations and the OBCs who might likewise profit from the step. While the said area is little, the flagging could pan state. Likewise, the Hatti people group is spread across many seats.

Meanwhile, with the frequent arrival of the central leadership in Himachal Pradesh, the political activity for the legislative assembly elections has intensified in the state. In Himachal, it has seen contests mainly between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress since 1990. However, the entry of the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) after a crushing victory in Punjab has shaken the political environment. 

The elections will be held in Himachal Pradesh in November 2022 to elect 68 members of the HP legislative assembly.