As a man harbouring serious political ambitions, Biharlilal Tirkey has participated in several public protests in his adult life. In the last week of August, though, Tirkey was part of a protest he had never imagined he would be involved in, let alone lead: a picket outside the office of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Ambikapur, the headquarters of Chhattisgarh’s Surguja district.
It was uncharted territory for Tirkey because he helms the Surguja district unit of Janjati Suraksha Manch, an outfit backed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the BJP.
“I had no choice because the party is trying to appease the very people we are fighting against,” said Tirkey, when we met one evening in Lundra where he lives.
Tirkey’s mutiny stemmed from the BJP’s decision to project Prabhod Minj, a former mayor of Ambikapur, as the party’s candidate from Lundra in the ongoing Assembly election in Chhattisgarh.
Minj, who belongs to the Oraon Adivasi community, is a practising Christian, a dual identity not acceptable to the Janjati Suraksha Manch. The organisation has a singular objective: it wants Adivasis who have adopted Christianity to be “delisted” or removed from the Scheduled Tribes list. Conflating religion and ethnicity, it argues Christian converts have left the Adivasi fold, and therefore should not be eligible for the benefits of affirmative action enshrined in the Constitution for those recognised as Scheduled Tribes.
This story was originally published in scroll.in. Read the full story here .