The ongoing talks between the Centre and the Arabinda Rajkhowa-led faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) for a resolution of the decades-long problems in Assam have hit a tribal ministry roadblock.
“The resolution framework worked out during the talks includes the granting of Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to six communities of Assam. This is being opposed by the tribal affairs ministry on the ground that existing guidelines would be violated,” a top government source privy to the developments told HT.
“What is not being realised is that granting of the ST status to these communities will render Assam a tribal state and would entitle it to special safeguards, which under present circumstances might be the only way out to resolve the state’s problems arising out of large-scale immigration from nearby Bangladesh, which has already hit the state’s demography,” the source added.
According to existing guidelines, five criteria need to be fulfilled for identification as STs, like shyness of contact with others, certain primitive traits, geographical isolation, and overall backwardness.
Sources in the tribal affairs ministry said: “There are some issues that we have but we are working on them.” PC Haldar, the interlocutor in the government-ULFA talks said: “Certain issues have slowed down the progress of talks but we are working on it.”
ULFA leader Rajkhowa told HT: “We have shown tremendous patience till now. Let’s wait for a few more days. We are hopeful the government will keep its promise.” In 1979, ULFA began a military campaign with the avowed aim of attaining sovereignty or complete independence for Assam.
(With inputs from Brajesh Kumar)