The granting of tribal status to the Hatti Community has come as a big boon for its population of 2.51 lakh living in the trans-Giri region of Himachal Pradesh’s Sirmaur district and the BJP is likely to reap a huge political dividend from the move in the forthcoming assembly elections.
The union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday had taken a landmark decision to add the Hatti community to the list of notified Scheduled Tribes which will ensure the community reservation in jobs and other benefits.
The Hatti community is engaged in the family occupation of selling vegetables and other cash crops, milk products as well as wool and meat at ‘Haats’— the weekly markets at Shimla and Nahan.
Originally, the community hailed from Jaunsar Bawar area of Uttarakhand. While those who stayed back in the native areas enjoyed tribal status since 1967, granted under the constitutional amendment, others having migrated to Himachal Pradesh, remained deprived of all benefits available under the Constitution for “tribals”.
This was the biggest anomaly and also an emotional issue for this population suffering lots of social, economic and topographical disadvantages as the entire belt remained underdeveloped. They also faced education, health and livelihood deprivations during the past 55 years, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said.
Thakur gives sole credit for conferring the tribal status to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national President J P Nadda.
Coming just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to Mandi on September 24 –ahead of the assembly elections, the move holds great political significance.
“A population of 1.60 lakhs in four assembly constituencies of Shaillai, Renuka — both represented by the Congress, apart from BJP dominant Paonta Sahib and Pacchhad, will benefit. We have excluded the entire scheduled castes population of 91,000 from the tribal status as they are already protected under the Constitution. They will continue to enjoy their rights and privileges“ Thakur told India Narrative at Shimla.
Sirmaur—a traditional Congress stronghold since the times of state’s first Chief Minister Dr Y S Parmar, came under BJP influence mainly when former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal headed the state and placated the local communities. The district which borders Uttarakhand and UP, is one of the most backward regions of the state but during recent years the construction of roads and the opening of schools and colleges, have brought about a remarkable change in the economic status.
“ Our community is culturally rich and follows its own ancient traditions. We celebrate all traditional fairs and festivals —an opportunity to connect and propagate the culture and religious rituals,” sais Dr Amichand Haatee, President Central body of Hatti Association—a organisation that fought a relentless battle to get the tribal status.
This year , 81-year-old popular litterateur and folk artist Vidya Sagar Sarek –who belongs to the Hatti tribe was conferred Padamshri for his contributions in the promotion of the pahari dialect preserving Sirmauri culture.
Political observers admit that the decision will improve the BJP prospects in the next assembly poll drastically on all five assembly seats of Sirmaur –a district identified with Dr Y S Parmar, who is also called ‘Himachal Nirmata’ (architect of Himachal).
State Congress President Pratibha Singh welcomed the decision but claimed that her husband Virbhadra Singh had taken serious steps to pursue with the centre to grant tribal status to Haatis. “But, now the BJP has done this to take political advantage in the elections.”