Shimla, April 17 (IANS) Over 2.50 lakh voters of Sirmaur district in Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday asked the two national parties -- the BJP and the Congress -- to come out with a detailed action plan on granting them tribal status, a demand pending for five decades.
It found mention in the BJP's election manifestos for the Assembly in 2009 and the Lok Sabha in 2014, but failed to be implemented.
"Our demand to grant Scheduled Tribe status has been caught in Central government's red-tapism despite repeated assurances by both the national parties for five decades. Our counterparts in Uttarakhand were granted tribal status way back in 1967," Hatti Sangharsh Samiti General Secretary Kundan Shastri told IANS.
The Hatti community is based mainly in the 133 panchayats dotting the trans-Giri area, which is part of the Shimla (reserved) seat, and is fighting for Scheduled Tribe status on the lines of the residents of Jaunsar-Bawar area in adjoining Uttarakhand.
Shastri said the community was analysing the intentions of both the parties before it goes out to vote.
The state's ruling BJP, which has dropped its two-time MP Virender Kashyap, has pitted greenhorn Suresh Kashyap against Dhani Ram Shandil of the Congress.
"During his tenure, Virender Kashyap tried his best to get us the tribal status, but he failed on the promise he made in the 2014 elections that the status would be granted before the next general elections," Shastri said.
He said Kashyap and Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur even raised the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh at a meeting in New Delhi on February 14, 2017.
"The Congress largely remains insensitive towards our demand," he said, adding that a delegation led by Kashyap also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this regard on December 20, 2011.
BJP candidate Suresh Kashyap said demand for special status was raised by the BJP alone, both during the UPA and the NDA tenure. "We will address this issue on priority once re-elected," he said.
Promising speedy implementation, Congress candidate Shandil said: "Once voted to power, I will take their case to its logical conclusion."
Official sources said the Himachal government sent a proposal to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs on May 4, 2005, to declare some areas, including the trans-Giri area, as scheduled areas.
Among the areas listed in the state government's proposal are Chhota and Bara Bangal villages in Kangra district, Chohar Valley in Mandi district, Churah in Chamba district, Malana in Kullu district and Dodra Kwar and Rampur Bushahr, both in Shimla district.
Similarly, the hill state pleaded that Barad, Bangala, Labana, Hatti and Dudra Kawaru communities living in these areas be declared Scheduled Tribes.
On December 16, 1993, a select committee of the Assembly even recommended to then Speaker T.S. Negi to initiate steps to declare the Hatti community a Scheduled Tribe, said a state government functionary.