Assam groups promised ST status say implement it first, as existing tribes threaten agitation
The existing ST groups, meanwhile, have threatened an agitation protesting the decision, and have given a call for a shutdown in Assam on January 11.Updated: Jan 10, 2019 11:39 IST
The six communities from Assam, which will be granted the status of Scheduled Tribe, are sceptical about the implementation of the Centre’s decision as they questioned the timing of the announcement.
The existing ST groups, meanwhile, have threatened an agitation protesting the decision, and have given a call for a shutdown in Assam on January 11.
Home minister Rajnath Singh had announced Chutiya, Moron, Muttock, Tai Ahom, Koch-Rajbongshi and Tea Tribes will be accorded the ST status after the Union Cabinet gave its nod. A bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
“I want to assure that while giving ST status to these six communities, it will be ensured that interests, rights and privileges of the existing ST groups are fully protected,” Singh said while speaking in the Upper House on the situation in Assam.
The Centre had appointed a committee in 2016 to discuss the modalities of the ST reservation to these groups. “The committee submitted a favourable report in December,” said Pallab Bhattacharyya, Assam’s director general of police and one of the members of the panel.
Leaders of several students’ union questioned the BJP’s motive behind the decision ahead of the general elections this year in the state and said they will wait and watch.
“Reservation is our legal right. We will only be happy once it has legal sanction and is implemented. The BJP has been promising this before every election and these six communities voted overwhelmingly for the BJP,” Arupjyoti Moran, the president of All Assam Moran Students Union, said.
“Why are they doing it on the last day of Parliament session?” he asked.
“Let us see if they pass it in Parliament. It also depends on whether our demands of equal status to existing ST groups and same political and other rights in Sixth Schedule areas are taken care of,” said Hitesh Barman, the chief advisor of the All Assam Koch Rajbongshi Students Union.
In a memorandum to Prime Minister Modi on January 5, the groups opposing the move said it “will destroy the existing Scheduled Tribes of Assam.”
Aditya Khaklari of the Coordination Committee of the Tribal Organisations of Assam said the decision to grant ST status to the six groups was not acceptable to them. The committee is a body which represents the existing ST groups including the Bodos, Karbis, Rabhas, Sonowal Kacharis, Hajongs, Dimasas among others.
“We voted overwhelmingly for the BJP. Now the party will face the same fate it did in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh if they implement this move,” Khaklari said.
They are also going to demand that the Bodo People’s Front which has 12 MLAs withdraw from the BJP-led state government.
Meanwhile, Khaklari, Moran and Barman also said their organisations are opposed to the Centre’s move to bring in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and demanded that the proposed legislation be scrapped.
“This move is nothing but a pre-poll gimmick. They are doing it just because they have introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill,” said Prabal Neog, a pro-talk ULFA leader.
Neog is from the Moran community which has a substantial representation even among the cadres of ULFA(I), the banned faction.
“But this move will not stop agitation. Assamese will not accept this terms and conditions game that you accept Bangladeshi infiltrators and we will give you ST status,” Neog said.
First Published: Jan 10, 2019 11:39 IST