With the state set to go to the polls later this year, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jairam Thakur said on Tuesday that about three lakh people in 154 panchayats, known as Hattis who are settled in the trans-Giri area in Sirmaur district adjoining Uttarakhand, may be given Scheduled Tribe status, a demand pending for five decades.
The community resides in four Assembly constituencies — Shillai, Paonta, Renuka and Pachhad.
The Chief Minister said he has called on Union Home Minister Amit Shah and apprised him about the demand of the Hatti community.
He thanked the Union minister for taking up the matter of according tribal status to the Hatti community at an appropriate level and giving priority to the issue that was neglected by previous Congress governments.
Thakur said the issue is likely to be resolved soon and a favourable decision may be taken by the Centre.
He said this community enjoys tribal status in Uttarakhand, which was accorded way back in 1968 as they shared similar culture and socio economic conditions.
The Chief Minister detailed about the long struggle for getting tribal status during the Congress regimes, a proposal that was turned down many times. He said the BJP governments at the Centre and the state always took a favourable stand for the cause of the Hatti community.
BJP’s election manifestos for the 2009 Assembly polls and 2014 Lok Sabha elections mentioned granting ST status to the Hattis.
The Hattis are fighting for the special category status on the lines of the residents of Jaunsar-Bawar area in Uttarakhand. Previously, the trans-Giri and Jaunsar-Bawar areas were part of the erstwhile Sirmaur princely state. Despite the Jaunsar-Bawar area getting separated from the princely state in 1815, due to marriages between the two clans, they still share cultural similarities.
Amichand Kamal, head of the central committee of the Hatti community, told IANS that the demand has been pending since 1979.
Granting ST status would help bring the people into the mainstream and ensure special budget for the area, he said.
It is the Tons river that separates the Hatti community from others in the state. The locals still follow age-old traditions like animal sacrifice and unique fairs and festivals like Budhi Divali, the festival of lights that is celebrated almost a month after the country has celebrated Divali.
The area is one of the country’s prominent ginger belts that accounts for 55 per cent of state’s total plantation, mainly in Paonta Sahib and Sangrah tehsils.