Two hundred adivasi leaders assembled in Delhi on Wednesday to demand recognition of their religion in the national census. Tribals worship nature but are often categorized as Hindus or slotted under other religions by census enumerators.
With a population of over 8 crores, adivasi groups say it's time for the government to recognize "adhi dharma" as a separate religion.
The group will meet the Home Minister on Thursday.
Rameshwar Oraon, Minister of State for Tribal Affairs says: "Adivasis come third after Hindus and Muslims. Yet there is no separate category for our religion. We are put under Hindu or other religion. We demand that a separate column be made for adivasis."
The development comes at a time when reports have come in from different parts of the country, including Kadhmal in Orissa, that tribals are being increasingly categorised as Hindu.
Dr Karma Oraon, head of anthropology department at Ranchi University, says: "This has been going on for a long time now. We should have reacted earlier. But over the last thirty years, we are now coming together and fighting to save our religion"
Adivasis say this is a fight for their religious identity.