The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress ally fires ST salvo
- Bodos unwilling to share reservation benefits

Kokrajhar/Guwahati, Dec. 3: The Congress’s partner in the government today struck the first discordant note amid the chorus of promises to ensure Scheduled Tribe status to the Adivasi community of Assam.

The Bodoland People’s Progressive Front said it was apprehensive of Delhi granting ST status to other communities at the cost of those tribes — including the Bodos — already in the list. Party president Hagrama Mohilary said a unilateral decision on the issue of expanding the list of STs would be counter-productive.

What Mohilary, the chief executive member of the Bodoland Territorial Council, meant was that the communities already in the list would not like to share the benefits of reservation with more ethnic groups.

The minister for welfare of plains tribes and other backward classes, Pramila Rani Brahma, pointed out that Assam had already reserved 49.5 per cent of jobs for the four categories of people eligible for it. The break-up is: 10 per cent for ST (Plains), 2 per cent for ST (Hills), 27 per cent for Other Backward Classes and 7.5 per cent for Scheduled Castes.

Supreme Court guidelines stipulate that reservation cannot exceed 50 per cent.

Communities categorised as ST (Plains) have been demanding that reservation for them be enhanced by two per cent in keeping with the increase in their population in the last few decades.

“It is not a question of keeping the quantum of reservation intact; it is a question of the political rights the communities already in the list enjoy,” the BPPF chief said.

He said granting ST status to another community would be akin to “opening up a Pandora’s box”.

Mohilary’s remarks, made during a function in Chirang district, coincided with a 12-hour national highway and railway blockade enforced by the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam. Most vehicles remained off the highways during the bandh.

Police rounded up hundreds of Adivasis who had hit the streets to impose the blockade. Rail communication was partially affected in pockets of Upper Assam where protesters blocked tracks.

Adivasi activists hit the streets at Kadamtal in Nalbari district, too.

Apart from some incidents of stone-pelting on National Highway 37, there were no reports of any blockade-related violence anywhere in the state.

Curfew was lifted from Rangapara in Sonitpur district with a semblance of normality returning to the area.

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