On March 6, Parliament passed a bill including the Darlong community as a sub-tribe of Kuki in the list of Scheduled Tribes of Tripura.
Rajya Sabha passed the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill-2022 with a voice vote. Lok Sabha had cleared the bill on March 28.
Who are Darlongs?
The Darlongs are a tribal community of around 11,000 people in Tripura. Members of this community have been fighting for a separate identity since 1995. However, they were denied of giving separate Schedule tribe identity certificates and were considered a generic tribal community under the Kuki group. That is the reason behind the inclusion of Darlongs as a separate Scheduled Tribe in the Kuki community.
Kuki is a larger umbrella of tribal community in Tripura with around 17 tribal groups in it. It includes many smaller clans like Khasi, Lushai, Hmars and other generic clans. Eventually, it had more clans added to it like Lushai, Hmar, Garo etc. With the inclusion of the Darlongs, Kuki will now have 18 sub-tribal communities.
Darlongs are a considerably small community but have made significant contributions in different sectors including education, public service, music, art and culture. Padma Shri music maestro Thanga Darlong is one of the first from the community to who have further established the identity of the community by receiving a prestigious award.
Why were they included now?
Tripura is a state in northeast India. It has a population of 37 lakh people and it includes19 tribal communities. It has Tripuri or Debbarma, Reangs or Brus, Jamatia, Noatia, Uchoi, Chakma, Mog, Lushai, Kuki, Munda, Kour, Oram, Santhal, Bhil, Bhutia, Chaimar or Sermai, Garo, Khasi, Lepcha, and Halam.
Identity is a sensitive topic here as it is regarded as a matter of recognition, preserving culture, and pride for the community. The Darlong community already had an ST status but they have pressed for the need to identify their community as a separate tribal group.
Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Renuka Saruta supported the passage of the Bill, saying it will give the Darlongs a separate identity. She cited the 2011 Census and said that Tripura has a tribal population of 11.6 lakh, which is 31.76% of the state’s population.
She further informed that the Centre is focusing on educating children belonging to tribal communities and has increased the budget for Eklavya Model schools to meet this goal. Eklavya Model schools are educational institutions meant for members of tribal communities.
The demand for a bill to include Darlongs in the list of STs as a sub-tribe of the Kuki community was first placed before the Parliament in December 2016 by the then tribal affairs minister Jual Oram. It was further pushed by the current chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb.
The opposition also supported the move. Congress’s Phulo Devi Netam supported the Bill but also said that it is a strategic move by the Union government before the upcoming Assembly elections in the state.
Trinamool Congress MP Santanu Sen requested all members to support the Bill. He also noted that there are 427 tribal communities in the country, of which 130 are from the North East.
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