The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bodos win a battle, lose another

New Delhi, Aug. 18: The Centre today tabled the Bodo language bill in the Lok Sabha, but the prospect of peace returning to Assam’s Bodo heartland dimmed with the rejection of a proposal to grant Scheduled Tribe (Hill) status to members of the community based in Karbi Anglong district.

Delhi had promised to consider the demand for ST (Hill) status to the Bodos of Karbi Anglong in its February 10 accord with the militant Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT).

However, the passage of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribe) Order Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha means the community has to bank on the Rajya Sabha giving a different decision. The bill has to be passed in the Upper House with a two-thirds majority for the amendment to take effect.

Bodo parliamentarian S.K. Bwismutiary, who represents Kokrajhar constituency, staged a walkout after the Lok Sabha gave its assent to the amendment bill.

“The Centre had made a commitment to grant the Bodos of Karbi Anglong ST (Hill) status. It has gone back on its commitment and this does not augur well for the proposed Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC),” Bwismutiary said.

Clause 8 of the tripartite accord — the Assam government is the third signatory — mentions that the demand for inclusion of the Bodo community of Karbi Anglong in the ST (Hill) list will be “considered” by the Centre.

Apart from rejecting this demand, the Lok Sabha vetoed a proposal to create an exclusive ST list for the districts to be administered by the territorial council.

Bwismutiary said tribes that do not belong to the Bodo heartland could now take advantage of the rights and privileges enshrined in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

“See the contradiction: in the other Sixth Schedule areas of the region, there are exclusive lists of tribes that inhabit the area, but this provision has not been extended to the BTC. The government has made a big blunder and great injustice has been done to the Bodos.”

The MP warned of “further agitation” in the Bodo-inhabited areas of Assam if Delhi went ahead with a half-baked implementation of its accord with the BLT.

The Bodo community’s feeling of being discriminated against stems from the fact that there are as many as 14 plains tribes in Assam and members of each of these groups can settle in the BTC-administered areas and enjoy the same rights and privileges.

“We wanted the list of Scheduled Tribes of the Bodoland area to include only the Bodo-Kachari, Rabha and Mech communities,” Bwismutiary said.

The only consolation for the Bodo community is that their language is just a step away from becoming the 19th one to receive constitutional recognition.

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