Gogoi: More worries
Guwahati, Feb. 12: The Congress’s tea cell and the apex tea labour union of the Brahmaputra Valley today confirmed what police had feared: tea estates in Assam are turning into Maoist breeding grounds.
Leaders of the PCC’s tea cell and the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha called on chief minister Tarun Gogoi last night to apprise him of their apprehensions about Maoist militants infiltrating the tea estates and instigating the Adivasi community.
The delegation said the state’s security would be threatened if the trend was not immediately checked.
The chairman of the tea cell, Bhagirat Karan, said his organisation had received information about Maoist elements sneaking into the plantations dotting the state to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere.
The police suspect a link between Maoists and the Adivasi National Liberation Army (ANLA), which has become active of late.
Karan said the chief minister assured the delegation of steps to rid the tea belt of Maoist influence.
The Congress leader said Gogoi also hinted at tabling a bill to create a development council for the tea tribes during the budget session of the Assembly next month.
“The chief minister is very keen to get the bill passed in the budget session and expedite the process of forming the council for the development of the community. Economic development is a tool to curb the menace of militancy,” Karan added.
The tea tribes — inclusive of the nomenclature “Adivasis” — have been restive over Delhi’s indecision on granting them Scheduled Tribe status. The ANLA, which claims to represent Adivasi aspirations, has added a dose of violence to the ST campaign since the November 24 incident in Beltola when a protest rally went out of control and a mob of residents retaliated in an unprecedented manner.
Karan said the government was in agreement with organisations of the tea tribes about lack of potable water, healthcare, education and self-employment opportunities being the core problems that need immediate attention. “The chief minister assured us that these problems would be taken care of.”
He quoted Gogoi as saying that the state government would also continue to pressure Delhi to grant ST status to the tea tribes. “The chief minister supported our idea of sending a delegation of tea organisations to New Delhi soon to put pressure on the central leadership to accord ST status to the tea community.”
The tea cell and the ACMS received praise from the Congress high command and the state leadership for playing a role in the party’s impressive performance in the panchayat polls.
The delegation urged the chief minister to reserve at least three posts of zila parishad presidents for elected representatives of the tea tribes.