Assam CM, Ulfa chief's communities, seek ST status
Guwahati ruled Assam for 600 years before the British took over in 1830s. They have been reigning since 1947 too, heading both democratically elected and underground governments. Still Ahoms are demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa are from Ahom community. Ethnic cousins Mataks, the community of Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua is not far behind.
Seven ethnic groups are seeking ST status, including Morans, Koch-Rajbongshis, Chutiyas, Karbi (Plains) and 'Tea Tribe'.
The six million Koch-Rajbongshis were a ruling community too. "The political parties promise us ST status before the elections .... We won't rest until we get what we deserve," said All Koch-Rajbongshi Students' Union president Biswajit Ray.
The four million Ahoms, dominate eastern Assam, are wealthier and politically potent. But Ahom student leader Moyur Borgohain disagrees. "We should be incorporated in the list of ST (Plains)," he said, adding that the constitutional safeguard was necessary against illegal Bangladeshi migrants.
The 'Tea Tribe' has been the most vocal and violent in its demand. Comprising 87 groups, such as Santhals, Kols, Bhils, their association with the tea industry gave them a 'tribal' identity.
At seven million they hold the key to at least 25 of the 126 seats. "All parties depend on us to be in power. How long can they ignore our demand?" said Adivasi leader Justin Lakra.