Threat to Indigenous/Tribal People of Assam

Centre mulling change in modalities

Notwithstanding stiff opposition from the Indigenous and tribal groups of Assam, the Centre is mulling change of modalities to grant Schedule Tribe (ST) status to six non-tribal communities of the State. Ironically socioeconomic status of all these six communities are comparatively better off than the tribal communities who continue to witness marginalisation due to skewed development policies adopted by the successive state government. Even in recent times the average literacy rate among tribal communities is less than fifty percent.

According to a media report published in The Assam Tribune on 7 August, an interaction between the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Register General of India was held with representative of the six communities, including Koch Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Moran, Matak, Chutia and Adivasi, in which it was clarified that the demand for ST status is likely to be fulfilled, though a time-frame was not specified. However, it is likely to be fulfill before the Assam  Assembly Elections in 2016 as the BJP government at the centre is making an aggressive effort to come to power in the state.

The interaction, held at Jawaharlal Nehru National Stadium premises, was addressed by Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Sarbananda Sonowal and RGI Dr C Chandramouli. Other attendances were BJP MPs Bijoya Chakravarty, Kamakhya Prasad Tassa, Rameshwar Telli and RP Sharma, among others.

The six non-tribal communities were represented by Sadou Asom Chah Janajati Chatra Sanstha, Sadou Asom Koch Rajbongshi Chatra Sanstha, Tai-Ahom Chatra Sanstha, Matak Yuba Chatra Sanmilani, Maran Chatra Sanstha and Chutia Jati Yuba Sanmilani.

In the opinion of the Union Tribal Affairs Minister these six communities are likely to be given ST status. A Draft Note for changing the modalities has been circulated and it is currently with the Union Cabinet. This is likely to happen in a shortest possible time.

Such flawed decision will contribute to complete exploitation and marginalisation of the existing tribal communities such as Bodos, Rabhas, Tiwas, Karbis, Garos, and other smaller groups.

Talking to newsmen, the RGI said that the demand of the six communities was old. It is not possible to grant them ST status according to the current modalities; hence they need to be changed, he remarked. The Centre had on at least five occasions rejected the demand of the Koch Rajbongshi community as the community doesn’t fulfill the criteria to be recognised as Tribal.

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