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ST status move in peril

- Communities want the issue to be taken up in Parliament

Guwahati, May 8: The movement to push for Scheduled Tribe status for six communities in Assam could hit a dead end if the issue is not taken up in a sustained manner in Parliament, sources associated with the process have warned.

The communities, which are separately leading the struggle include the tea/Adivasi, Tai Ahom, Moran, Muttack, Chutia and Koch Rajbongshi.

According to them, Dispur’s role and powers are limited to forwarding the ethnography report of the six communities to the ministry of tribal affairs and taking up the issue with Central agencies from time to time. And the ministry gives nothing more than assurances.

The long-pending ST demand has to be raised in concerted and sustained manner for debate, discussion and approval in Parliament, which is mandatory, the sources said.

“Nobody in Delhi will go out of the way to meet the demand as they have no stake here. Hence, the groups need to build pressure through MPs, from the state or outside, to push the demand to its logical conclusion or the demand will not yield the desired result, erupting from time to time, resulting in protests and strikes,” one of them said.

Going by the reactions of those The Telegraph contacted vice-chairman of the Adivasi Development Council, Jitu Kissan, adviser to the All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union (AKRSU), Biswajit Roy and Raphael Kujur of the All Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA) — the communities too seem to have started believing this point of view.

Kissan said the issue had to be placed in Parliament properly for debate, since the “final approval” would have to come from it. “When I had visited the tribal affairs ministry, I came to know that over 600 communities are demanding ST status,” he said.

However, Roy and Kujur blamed the present government for the alleged lack of progress. “If the government wants, it can do anything. Nothing has come of our meeting (with) home ministry officials here last year. There has been no concerted attempt to raise the issue in the ongoing session of Parliament,” Kujur said.

Roy, who will be meeting home ministry officials this month, said MPs from the state only give lip service to the ST demand. “There is a fear that once new communities come to the ST fold, the existing tribal communities will lose out politically and economically,” Roy said.

Sources in Dispur said barring the Tai Ahom, the other five communities had submitted ethnography reports, which would decide the fate of the communities with regard to ST status. “On our own, we have conveyed to the Centre that all the demands be considered together. There should not be any piecemeal announcement,” the source said.


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