Barely a fortnight after witnessing bloodbath against Hindi-speaking settlers, Assam’s Karbi Anglong district is under siege again. This time from various ethnic communities up against a restrictive land policy that had apparently triggered the carnage that claimed 30 lives.
The Nagarik Suraksha Manch, an umbrella organization of all non-Karbi communities in Karbi Anglong, has announced an economic blockade on NH39, the district’s lifeline.
The blockade is against the Congress-ruled Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council’s (KAAC) July 13 notification restricting sale, purchase, gifting, transfer and leasing of land from tribal to non-tribal and non-tribal to tribal. Though KAAC claimed the notification was to keep Bangladeshis out of the district, the notification also imposed restrictions on all tribes other than the "indigenous tribals"—the majority Karbis.
"This notification is discriminatory and is potentially explosive," said a spokesman of the Nagarik Suraksha Manch, adding the blockade will continue unless the KAAC withdraws the notification.
The Manch comprises communities such as Assamese, Bengali, Nepali, Bodo, Kuki, Adivasi, Rengma Naga, Tiwa, Mishing, Rabha and other indigenous groups besides the Hindi-speaking.
All these communities have a sizeable but scattered population. They virtually control trade and agricultural activities. For instance, the Kukis control the lucrative ginger trade while the Hindi-speaking lord over the sugarcane plantations.
The Karbi Anglong district authorities are wary of more violence in view of the economic blockade. Karbi Anglong, incidentally, is India’s second largest district but has only four police stations.
“We negotiated with the Manch, and they agreed to a 12-hour blockade instead of an indefinite one,” said deputy commissioner M Angamuthu. "But we have taken precautionary measures against any repercussion."
Meanwhile, chief minister Tarun Gogoi said that his government would be reviewing the KAAC land policy.