Reservation issue pits Lambadas against Gond tribe in Telangana

Gonds and other Adivasis have organised meetings expressing their anger over Lambadas cornering most of the benefits of the reservations in education and jobs

Hyderbad: The issue of reservation has left tribals in Telangana divided, hurting the efforts of ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) to consolidate its hold on its support base.

The issue of including Lambadas in the list of tribals has left the other groups of tribals including aboriginal Adivasis angry and alienated from the ruling party.

TRS leaders and tribal legislators were worried with both the sides flexing their muscles. Gonds, mostly concentrated in the undivided Adilabad district, were at the forefront of the campaign, demanding the removal of Lambadas from the list of scheduled tribes (STs).

Gonds and other Adivasis have organised meetings expressing their anger over Lambadas cornering most of the benefits of the reservations in education and the jobs and were demanding that injustice should be undone.

The genesis of the issue goes back to 1976 when the then Tribal affairs minister, K. Bheem Rao, had given his consent to the inclusion of Lambadas in the list of STs. Currently, Rao’s daughter, K. Lakshmi, is a TRS legislator from the area and she is facing the heat from the Gond tribals.

While the TRS government tried to placate the simmering discontent among the Gonds by naming Asifabad district after Kumaram Bheem, a Gond leader who had waged a struggle against the Nizam government and also set up a tribal museum. But the Gonds were not satisfied. “This will not end our property. We want education and jobs,” said a Gond leader.

What has added to the worries of TRS government was the plan of the Gond tribals to force the tribal elected representatives to resign. Most of the representatives belong to the Gond tribes and they are under pressure from within the community. “We will not only make them resign but will also stop the Lambada officials and employees from attending the offices,” said K. Ambaji Rao, President of Haimendorf Youth organisation.

While Gond tribal leaders were planning to visit other states with significant tribal populations to mobilise support and get their issue raised in Parliament, the Lambadas were also gearing up for a counter agitation. This has created a lot of tension between the two sides in Adilabad, which is now divided into four districts. The Gond tribal culture, which was once very pronounced in the area, has gradually dwindled as the other communities and groups have pushed the ethnic tribals into background.

The issue came to the fore when the TRS government got a bill passed by the state legislature increasing the quota for the STs from 6 per cent to 12 per cent but it was stuck awaiting a nod from the Centre.

The Gond and other tribal groups have organised a massive show of strength in Adilabad and their protest was attended by more than 100,000 people. The Lambada community was also likely to follow the suit.

Telangana state has 9.3 per cent tribal population, totalling 3.1 million. While the TRs government was offering the increased quota as a solution, the Gond and other groups say they will not benefit from the measure as Lambadas will corner it.

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