SHILLONG: Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma feels that the country’s current political landscape needs a national tribal leader.
Speaking at the 7th P A Sangma Memorial Lecture at the NEHU’s Tura Campus on Friday, the Chief Minister said that considering India’s 8% tribal population that represents roughly 10-12 lakh people, the tribals of the country need a pan-Indian voice.
“We never really had a national tribal leader. Because usually, tribal leaders end up being leaders of their own tribe, they don’t become leaders of tribal communities; speaking for the tribal cause; tribal point of view, across the country,” he said.
Acknowledging that Eastern Central India hosts the larger chunk of the country’s tribal population, Sangma said, “There are many tribes; there are tribes in the Northeast; there are larger tribal population in East Central India – Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and then there are tribal population in other parts of the country. This population needs a national leader.”
Urging all the tribal leaders to help foster national unity, Sangma stressed on the need to “educate” the rest of India about different tribal communities in the country and their ways of life.
“You need tribal leaders to keep India’s cohesion… Its 11-12 crores tribals and somebody needs to speak for them; their sensibilities,” he said, adding that former Speaker of Lok Sabha Purno Sangma was one such leader. “I thought, given the fact that he was very young, finally India had found a pan national tribal leader,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister and family observed the 76th Birth Anniversary of the late leader. He, along with elder brother and former cabinet minister James Sangma and sister, Tura MP Agatha Sangma, paid their respects at the grave of the former Lok Sabha Speaker and attended a prayer meeting at the St. Luke’s Church in Tura. “…You are dearly missed Baba. May you keep blessing us from above,” he wrote on a popular micro-blogging website post the ceremony.