Eyeing to woo voters belonging to the Hatti community settled in Sirmaur district in Himachal Pradesh ahead of the Assembly polls scheduled later this year, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday granted Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to them on the lines of their counterparts settled in adjoining Uttarakhand.
Leaders under the banner of Hatti Sangharsh Samiti had been asking both the BJP and the Congress — which have largely ruled the state — to grant them the tribal status, a demand pending for over five decades now.
The state’s ruling BJP’s election manifestos for the Assembly elections in 2009 and the Lok Sabha polls in 2014 found mention of granting ST status to the Hattis.
Expressing gratitude, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur thanked the Union government in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular for according the status to the people of the trans-Giri area of Sirmaur district.
The Chief Minister said the Central government has fulfilled a long-pending demand of the people of the trans-Giri area as the people of neighbouring Uttarakhand with almost identical culture and topographic conditions enjoy the same status.
He said the historic decision would benefit the population of over 1.60 lakh people of Sirmaur.
Thakur said this decision would also go a long way in preserving the rich culture and traditions of the people of the area and accelerate the pace of development in the region.
“The present state government since coming to power has persuaded this issue with the Central leadership,” the CM said.
He said Prime Minister Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other Central leaders had shown their interest in this emotional issue of the Hatti community.
Thakur said the state is always alive to the genuine demands of the people and had put up this matter before the Central government vigorously due to which fruitful results have emerged.
The Hattis are mainly concentrated in the 144 panchayats dotting the trans-Giri area (Giripar), which is part of the Shimla (reserved) parliamentary seat, and they were fighting for the special category status on the lines of the residents of the Jaunsar-Bawar area in Uttarakhand, who were granted the status way back in 1967.
Previously, trans-Giri and Jaunsar-Bawar areas were part of the erstwhile Sirmaur princely state. Despite the Jaunsar-Bawar area separated from the princely state in 1815, they share cultural similarities due to marriages between the two clans.
Amichand Kamal, head of the central committee of the Hatti community, told IANS that the demand had been pending since 1979.
He said granting ST status would help bring the people into the mainstream.
The Sirmaur area is one of the country’s prominent ginger belts that account for 55 per cent of state’s total plantation, mainly in Paonta Sahib and Sangrah tehsils.
Thousands of people from Shillai, Sri Renukaji, Pachhad and Paonta Sahib Assembly constituencies celebrated the granting of ST status for the Hatti community.