Thousands of tribal people took to the streets in Telangana and marched from the headquarters of Indervelli mandal, Utnoor town in Adilabad district, reiterating their demand that the Telangana government remove Lambada tribal people from the list of Scheduled Tribes in the state.
The Hindu reported that around 1,000 Raj Gonds and Pardhans started marching, but the crowd swelled as more and more joined them en route. A dharna was also staged at IB chowrasta, followed by a brief sit-in at the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) office.
The speakers, mainly belonging to Tudum Debba or Adivasi Hakkula Porata Samiti and Adivasi Yuva Sena, also included former Boath MLA Soyam Bapu Rao, Tudum Debba Adilabad district vice-president Kudimetha Tirupati and Adivasi youth leader Vedma Bojju, The Hindu report adds.
Meanwhile, a large group of Lambadas also arrived at the ITDA, to stage a counter-protest.
Following this, Adilabad Superintendent of Police M Sreenivas rushed to the spot and held talks with members of both the groups, to ensure a peaceful solution.
The Gond people are Adivasis, originally believed to have spread from central India, to parts of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. They have a sizable population and a long history of settlement in Telangana. The Gond people primarily speak Dravidian languages.
Banjara Lambadas are a community that settled across the Indian subcontinent, from the state of Rajasthan. While they are listed as Backward Class (BC) or Other Backward Class (OBC) in some states, they are listed as Scheduled Caste (SC) or ST in other states.
The Gonds, have been demanding that the state and Central government must remove Lambadas from the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list.
â€œThe Lambada Banjaras come from Maharashtra and settle in Telangana district and are availing all the government benefits although they are not locals. In Maharashtra, Lambadas are in BC category but in Telangana they are in ST category. Although, they come from outside the state, they are somehow managing get government jobs and are availing all the benefits under ST quota,â€™â€™ Babu Rao Gond, a tribal leader, told a gathering on Thursday.
The Gond Tribals have been pointing out that the Lambadas were included in the ST list only in 1976 in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, and have dubbed it a 'backdoor entry'.
The rivalry came out in the open in the first week of October, after an incident of vandalism, that took place at the tribal museum at Jodeghat in Asifabad district on October 5.
The Lambadas allege that some Gonds damaged the statue of a Lambada woman kept at the museum, stating that the Lambadas did not participate in the uprising against the last Nizam of Hyderabad, led by Komaram Bheem, in the 1940s.
Jodeghat carries a lot of historical importance for the Gonds, as this was the place that gave them the slogan of "Jal, Jungle, Zameen" (Water, Forest, Land), when the tribal people were fighting the Nizam Osman Ali Khan's police force.
The tribal people were led by Komaram Bheem, a Gond himself, who died during battle, and became an eternal hero to the community.