Guwahati, Dec. 13: A ruling Congress legislator today expressed fears that denying Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the tea tribe community in Assam may turn the tea garden areas of the state into breeding ground of Maoists.
Chabua legislator Raju Sahu told reporters outside the Assembly that there was a growing sense of resentment among the tea tribes over ST status and Maoists, who have already made inroads among youths of the community, may exploit the issue to gain ground in the tea gardens.
State government reports say Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts have been affected by Left-wing extremism in the state. Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh had said on December 2 that these two districts in Upper Assam were likely to be declared Maoist-affected areas by the Centre soon. There have also been reports of Maoist tie-up with Paresh Barua faction of Ulfa.
Sahu said since tea tribe youths were deprived of employment and education, it was not possible for them to compete in the general category since the community is one of the most backward in the state.
He said a 15-member delegation of the Congress-affiliated Intuc would leave for Delhi soon to pile pressure on the Centre to grant ST status to the community in the state. The delegates will include Sahu and Congress legislator from Behali constituency Pallab Lochan Das.
Several organisations representing six communities of the state — Koch-Rajbongshis, Tai-Ahoms, tea tribes, Chutia, Morans and Muttocks — had announced agitation programmes after the Registrar General of India rejected their plea on December 5.
Das said if the tea tribe in Jharkhand and other places had been given ST status, there couldn’t be any justification for denying the same to the people of the community in Assam. The state government supports the ST demand of the six communities.
According to the RGI, the tea tribe community in Assam, which has migrated from places like Jharkhand and Bihar, has lost its tribal characteristics in its new surroundings.
On this, Das said if people of the community who migrated to Tripura could be listed as ST then the same should also be done with the community in Assam.
The issue was also raised in the Assembly by AGP legislator Phani Bhusan Choudhury. During the discussion, Speaker Pranab Kumar Gogoi suggested that it should be examined whether declaration of Assam as a tribal state could help these communities to get ST status.
The suggestion was supported by the Congress, AGP and BJP legislators.