Tribes oppose Assam govt’s proposal to include 6 OBC communities on tribal list | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Tribes oppose Assam govt’s proposal to include 6 OBC communities on tribal list

As many as 19 tribal communities under the umbrella of the Coordination Committee of Tribal Organisations of Assam (CCTOA) , have opposed the move to include Ahoms, Koch-Rajbangshis, Morans, Mataks, Chutiyas, and Adivasis (tea tribes) in the tribal list.

india Updated: May 29, 2017 10:50 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal (4th R) in presence of other dignitaries releasing a book, entitled “Scheduled Tribes of Assam” published by the information and public relations department, Assam.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal (4th R) in presence of other dignitaries releasing a book, entitled “Scheduled Tribes of Assam” published by the information and public relations department, Assam.(PTI)

The Assam government’s assurance to include 6 Other Backward Class (OBC) communities in the Scheduled Tribe roll in the state is being opposed by the representatives of the tribes that are already on the list on grounds that it would deprive them of the benefits of reservation.

On Friday, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Guwahati to inaugurate the 9.15km long Dhola-Sadiya bridge between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, members of these tribal communities were in the Capital demanding for the protection of their rights.

As many as 19 tribal communities under the umbrella of the Coordination Committee of Tribal Organisations of Assam (CCTOA) , have opposed the move to include Ahoms, Koch-Rajbangshis, Morans, Mataks, Chutiyas, and Adivasis (tea tribes) in the tribal list.

The ST list in Assam includes communities such as the Bodo, Tiwa, Karbi, Dimasa, Mising, Sonowal, Garo and Deuri. These tribal communities are worried that if these “advanced and populous” communities are recognised as tribes, they would corner the bulk of the quotas in jobs and educational institutions.

The inclusion of these 6 communities in the tribal list has been the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party’s poll promise. In April, chief minister Sarbanand Sonowal met the representatives of these communities and reiterated his government’s commitment to fulfil the promise.

The Centre has set up a committee to examine the proposal and is expected to submit its report by the end of June.

But, the tribal communities are worried. They have urged the government to rethink the proposal, pointing out that inclusion of prosperous communities that are politically and economically powerful would “decimate” the tribals.

The CCTOA referred to the 1996 decision of granting tribal status to the Koch-Rajbangshis through an ordinance, which led to the community capturing 81% seats in Assam Engineering College, 100% in the Assam Ayurvedic College and 78% in all the three medical colleges in the state.

The ordinance was later sent to a select committee and the bill to grant ST status was not passed in Parliament.

It also cited the example of the Meenas, who were similarly given ST status.

“The Meenas of Rajasthan who constitute about 1.6% of the STs of India as per the 2011 census secured 35.5% of the seats reserved for STs in the civil services examination in 2013-14,” Aditya Khakhlari, chief coordinator of the committee, said.

“Majority of these (6) communities do not possess characteristics, which define tribals. There is no study to prove that many of these are politically, educationally, socially and culturally backward justifying the grant of Scheduled Tribe status,” he said in a keynote address at a seminar on Friday.

The CCTOA has also made a reference to the registrar general of India and the Scheduled Tribes Commission having in the past turned down the proposal—as many as eight times between 1981 and 2006—to include these communities in the ST list.

A community is included in the ST list after the Centre gets a nod from the concerned state government/UT administration for a recommendation as required under Article 342 of the Constitution.

If the concerned state government recommends the proposal, it is sent to the registrar general of India (RGI) for their comments or views. If the RGI recommends the proposal, it is then referred to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) for their recommendation.

The community is listed as a tribe if the NCST also recommends the case, and the matter after getting a cabinet approval is put up before Parliament for its consent.