With the just weeks away for the November 12 Assembly election, Shah was the first Union minister who attended the political function after the announcement of the polls by the Election Commission of India on Friday.
Donning traditional dresses and dancing to the tunes of folk songs, the locals, largely women, extended a warm welcome to Shah and Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, among others, on their arrival in Sataun in the Shillai Assembly segment, the seat represented by Congress member Harshwardhan Chauhan five times.
In 2017 he defeated the BJP’s sitting legislator Baldev Tomar.
Addressing an impressing meeting, Shah it was the Modi government who took note of the long-pending demand of the inhabitants of the trans-Giri region to get a tribal status.
“Time and again Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had been apprising me about your demand that the Congress had put on backburner and did injustice with you for decades,” Shah said.
“It was only Modi-ji who understood their pain and decided to extend the tribal status to the Hattis on the pattern of their community settled in adjoining hills of Uttarakhand,” he said, adding: “The Congress work is to create quarrels between people and to ignite fire but PM Modi works for development”.
Donning a Himachali multicoloured cap, the Union Home Minister said the people have seen and understood the benefits of the double-engine government.
Clearing indicating that with a generational shift in the state leadership in 2017 the decades of politics over donning headgear that reflects the ideology and loyalties has literally been given a farewell, Shah said” “Gone are the days when the people don a green or maroon flap cap. Now the green cap also belongs to the BJP like the maroon cap.”
The concepts of “green” and “maroon” caps stem from upper and lower areas of the state. The green symbolises descendants of upper Himachal, while the maroon represents lower Himachal.
“Now the BJP is in upper Himachal and in lower Himachal too,” Shah said, while appealing the Hattis to consolidate the party’s position in Sirmaur by giving mandate to its candidates on all five seats.
He also assured the Scheduled Castes that their status and rights would not be compromised with the garbting of the Scheduled Tribe status to the Hatti community.
Political observers say the Hatti community has dominance in four Assembly segments in Sirmaur, one of the country’s most backward districts.
Of the five seats, the BJP has three legislators in Pacchad, Nahan and Paonta Sahib, while the Congress represents Shillai and Renuka Assembly segments.
Nearly 50 per cent of the population in Sirmaur comprises Hatti community members.
During the speech, Shah said extending the Scheduled Tribe status would benefit 1.60 lakh people settled in 389 gram panchayats.
Exuding confidence that the ruling BJP in Himachal will once again form the government with a two-third majority, Shah said Himachal is heading for arivaj badlega’ (electoral traditions will change).
“There is going to be a new tradition in Himachal Pradesh by giving consecutive term. It is not a new thing, in Uttarakhand on that side of the hill, Congressmen used to say, it is a tradition, now it is our turn. But no traditions followed there. The BJP government was formed with a two-third majority.”
Taking a veiled swipe at the Congress for promoting dynastic politics, Shah said people who “sell dreams” will never win in Himachal.
Who are the Hattis?
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 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, marriages between the two clans are still sharing cultural similarities.
Sirmaur Hatti Vikas Manch chief adviser Ramesh Singta told IANS the demand was pending for the 55 years.
Granting the Scheduled Tribe status would help bringing the people into the mainstream, he believes.
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 Diwali, the festival of lights that is celebrated almost a month later the country celebrated.
The 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.
Leaving aside the demand for a Scheduled Tribe status, local farmers have also been demanding that ginger powder they are producing must get protection through GI (geographical indications) tag like turmeric.
Hatti Farmers Union convener Kundan Singh told IANS the ginger powder of the Bella Valley in Shillai subdivision requires GI tag as it has a huge market due to its special extraction technique that has been traditionally preserved for centuries.
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