Senior leaders of the herders said the state government had done little for them. The community had received little help by way of education and employment, they had no pucca houses, and did not so much as have a certificate to show that they were an SC group.
Leaders of the community said that if the state government continued to neglect them, and if no certificate was granted to them in a month’s time, showing them as SC, they would embrace Christianity.
Dhangars have a strong presence in the Braj region and across the state. Community leaders said about 1.5 lakh people could join the Christian fold if the caste certificates were not forthcoming.
More than 300 representatives of the herding community from across the state attended the mahapanchyat at Hariyali Vatika in Agra on Sunday.
Representatives from Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Mathura, Gokul, Vrindawan, Etah, Firozabad, Aligarh and Mainpuri discussed the issue of their identity and status. Members expressed their resentment that the state government had been so cavalier about matters that related to their welfare.
JP Dhangar, state president of the Dhangar Mahasabha (UP), told TOI that his community was among the most neglected in the state. He said the government had been unmoved by HC orders, and no caste certificate had been issued to them in six decades.
“The Dhangars were declared a Scheduled Caste in 1950. Since then, we have been waiting for our caste certificates, and have been unable to avail the benefits that SCs receive. The Allahabad high court and the National SC/ST Commission have asked the UP government to get our caste certificates made as soon as possible. The process is delayed despite that,” Dhangar said.
JP Dhangar said the high court had asked the state government to issue caste certificates to the community on July 10, 2006. The SC/ST commission directed the government to issue caste certificates to the community twice, in 2008 and 2012, he said.
“We have taken out hundreds of cycle rallies and protests and demonstrations. No heed has been paid to our demands. The government now has one month, from December 28, 2014 to January 28, 2015. It we do not receive caste certificates, we will all convert to Christianity,” JP Dhangar said.
Beena Dhangar, chairman of the Etmadpur Nagar Palika, who represented her area in the mahapanchyat, said those from her community contesting elections cannot take advantage of reserved seats.
“Tehsildars are not getting our caste certificates made. Not even a single Dhangar family in Braj Mandal has caste certificates for all its members. In some cases, only women were given the certificate. In some other cases, only men were given the certificate. Money is often demanded for making the SC certificate,” Beena Dhangar said.