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Forum sets deadline on ST demand

- Parties told to clear stand

Guwahati, Dec. 27: The Janagusthiya Aikya Manch, Assam, a joint platform of six communities of the state demanding Scheduled Tribe status, today set a 15-day deadline for all political parties to make clear their stand on their demand.

The Manch, which represents Koch-Rajbongshis, Tai Ahoms, Morans, Muttocks, Chutias and the tea tribes (Adivasis), also warned the parties that failure to do so might invite trouble.

The threat assumes significance in light of the upcoming panchayat polls, which are scheduled in January-February next year.

Addressing a news conference here today, Tai Ahom Students’ Union president Pranjal Rajkonwar said the Registrar General of India, C. Chandramouli, expressed surprise when they submitted before him that a select committee constituted by the Centre had given its nod to granting ST status to the six communities way back in 1997.

“Chandramouli told us if the select committee had approved the ST status then there was no requirement of a fresh RGI nod for the Centre to implement our demand,” Rajkonwar said.

A delegation of the Manch met Chandramouli in New Delhi on December 24.

“We are confused at the contradictory statements made by the government and RGI. On one hand, the government is saying scheduling has not been possible as the RGI has not accorded his nod to our demand, while on the other, Chandramouli himself told us that no RGI approval was required for the Centre to take a decision about according ST status to the six communities if the select committee had approved it,” All Assam Mattak Yuba-Chatra Sanmilan president Nikheswar Saikia said.

“If what the RGI told us is true, then the Union tribal affairs ministry and ST-SC Commission can start the process.”

Saikia said after meeting the RGI they got an impression that they were yet to get ST status owing to lack of political will on the part of the Centre and the state government.

“We demand that the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre and the Congress government in the state should take immediate steps to fulfil our demand in the next session of Parliament.”

“Before every election in the state, the ruling party in its manifesto assures us that they will work towards granting ST status to the six communities. Since every election manifesto has the approval of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, we want their intervention to fulfil our demand,” Saikia added.

Pranjal Rajkonwar said any political party that fails to make its stand clear on their demand within 15 days would have to pay a “political price”. He, however, did not divulge what steps they were planning to take.