BANGRIPOSI (MAYURBHANJ):Tribal Welfare and Sports Minister Sudam Marndi is in big trouble with the country’s highest tribal body on Wednesday announcing to boycott his family and native village for his only daughter’s inter-caste marriage that goes against the tradition of his Santhali community.
At a congregation of heads and members of different tribal bodies including the Bharat Jakat Majhi Pargana Mahal (All India Majhi Pargana Mahal), Dishom Pargana (regional committee), Adibasi Socio Educational and Cultural Association (ASECA) and Mayurbhanj Adivasi Students’ Association (MASA), it was decided that the community would continue to boycott the Minister’s family and residents of Dahisahi (his native) for life.
The meeting, presided by Sadar Mahal and Sasada ghat president Shankar Charan Murmu, was attended by over 200 ghat pargana heads and Majhi Hadams (village chiefs) who are regarded as religious heads of the Santhal community in their respective villages. However, the community heads from Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar withdrew the decision to ostracise two other villages - Kandalia and Balikhani - after the Majhi Hadams sought apology at the meeting.
General secretary of All India Majhi Pargana Mahal (ALMPM) Ramchandra Murmu said the Minister’s family won’t be allowed to enter Jahira (place of worship) and ghats (where tribals immerse the mortal remains of their relatives) for life as he has disrespected the tradition and dishonoured the community decision by using his power. He also condemned the police intervention asking a community head to lift the diktat.
Coming down heavily on the minister, Desh Pargana head from West Bengal Bipin Marndi said his authoritarian attitude towards the community can’t not be tolerated. “He may be a minister, but he is like another member of our Samaj (community). Inter-caste marriage is a sensitive issue and heads of one or two villages can’t take a decision for the entire community. It has to be put up before the dishom pargana meeting where the heads can take the final call,” he maintained.
The community heads also challenged the leadership of the Minister and his intention to disrespect the Gram Sabha decisions. “Does he want to do the welfare of tribals by marrying off his daughter to a Brahmin? If Sudam apologies for his act, there will be another meeting where the heads may take a decision in consonance with our tradition,” Ramchandra added.
Meanwhile, the MASA leaders have demanded expulsion of Sudam from the State Cabinet. “As he is acting against the tribals, he has lost moral ground to head the Ministry which looks after welfare of the tribals. The ruling party may lose tribals’ support if he is not removed soon,” warned MASA president Suklal Marndi.
The Minister, however, sounded unapologetic. He said he has done nothing wrong. “I love and respect all communities. I support the inter-community marriages,” he said.
“As per our tradition, my father had organised a puja in our village and the rituals were performed by the Majhi Hadam. I respect tribal traditions and customs but marriage is a person’s constitutional right which can’t be denied”, the Minister said.
The Minister drew his community’s ire after his daughter Sanjivani, a doctor, married to BJD students’ wing general secretary Sunil Sarangi, a Brahmin, in Bhubaneswar on January 31. The marriage was attended by many dignitaries including Governor SC Jamir and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
Though Sudam organised a purification ritual in consultation with the chief of his native village, it was denounced by the community heads. At a meeting on February 5, the community heads had ostracised the Minister’s family along with the residents of three villages - Dahisahi, Kandalia and Balikhani - for supporting them.