The Telegraph
Tuesday , December 25 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Centre rethink on ST status

New Delhi, Dec. 24: The Centre is reconsidering granting Scheduled Tribe status to six Assam communities if the state government is not averse to it.

Representatives of the communities met the Registrar General of India today to press for their demand.

Sources said Dispur believes granting Scheduled Tribe status should be examined “case-by-case” and is unwilling to grant it to all the six communities at the same time.

Ulfa (pro-talks), which is engaged in negotiations with the Centre and the state government, wants the Tai-Ahoms, tea tribes, Morans, Muttocks, Chutias and Koch-Rajbongshis to be declared Scheduled Tribes.

Sources said the granting of Scheduled Tribe status would directly impact the socio-political conflicts in Assam. As many top militant leaders, including Ulfa’s Paresh Barua (anti-talks), belong to some of these communities, granting Scheduled Tribe status could neutralise their cause.

It could also dissolve several political careers. “Therefore, it is not possible that any politician will have it done,” a senior former Intelligence Bureau official said.

After the united forum of the six communities met Registrar General of India C. Chandramouli, president of All Tai Ahom Students Union Pranjalraj Konwar said after going through the documents submitted by them, the registrar general had agreed that the communities fulfilled the criteria to get Scheduled Tribe status.

He said a delegate of the united forum has been camping in New Delhi for the past few days during which they met political leaders like Congress president Sonia Gandhi, leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.

Konwar said after the meeting with Chandramouli it was clear that the six communities had been deprived of Scheduled Tribe status because of lack of political will on part of the Assam government.

The communities urged the state government to take the initiative to grant them Scheduled Tribe status.

However, the Registrar General of India (RGI) has earlier rejected the proposal, saying the tribes did not fit the criteria for Scheduled Tribe status. “We only gave our view according to the norms,” a senior RGI official said, adding that the Centre could change the norms and grant Scheduled Tribe status if the communities fulfilled those norms.

The guidelines for deciding Scheduled Tribe status are specified by the government. The way of living, social customs, religious practices, peculiarity of dialect, and educational and economic status of communities are considered before deciding on their status.

Sources said some of the proposed communities have lost their old characteristics and could not be considered “tribal” under the present norms.

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