Sarma clears air on Nadda claim on ST status
A day after BJP president J.P. Nadda’s categorical assertion at a public rally in Silchar that the Narendra Modi government has granted Scheduled Tribe status to six communities in Assam left the aspiring groups seething, senior cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday said the state government will soon submit its report to the Centre on the issue.
The six communities demanding ST status for over two decades are Koch-Rajbongshi, Chutia, Moran, Tai Ahom, Matak and tea tribes.
Nadda’s statement on Monday led the six groups to raise the pitch for expediting the process for granting them ST status while they criticised the “misleading” claim by a senior leader like Nadda, leading to discussion on social media.
Senior advocate Nilay Dutta virtually summed up the mood of the groups in a tweet: “Surprised. This was not known to me. When was the Act or Ordinance passed? @CMOfficeAssam @sarbanandsonwal @himantabiswa. Is it a fact? Or a big faux-pas by @JPNadda. He was reading from written notes. Who gave him the briefing?”
Sarma on Tuesday tried to clear the air over Nadda’s assertion after representatives of the six groups made their displeasure public as they were unaware of any such development. These groups are politically influential, comprising about 1 crore of the state’s 3.2 crore population.
“Our national president has only reiterated our commitment to accord ST status to the six communities without affecting the interest of the existing groups. We will soon send our report to the Centre so that it can be taken up in Parliament to expedite the process. ST status is the right of these groups and the BJP supports their demand,” Sarma told reporters here, adding the issue should not be politicised.
The BJP had promised ST status to the six groups before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. During the peak of the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act movement in Assam, the Centre ordered the formation of a group of ministers after it introduced The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) in Rajya Sabha on January 9 last year proposing ST status to the six communities.
Dispur formed the group of ministers headed by Sarma in January 2020 to suggest measures to ensure ST status to the new groups without affecting the interests of the existing groups. The group had said that they will submit its report in October last year but it is still a work in progress from all possible indications.
All Tai Ahom Yuba Parishad chief spokesperson Gunakanta Gogoi, All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union general secretary Gakul Barman and All Moran Students Union chief Naba Moran told The Telegraph that they were unaware of any such development but both the state and central governments should now expedite the process as they have waited for too long.
Condemning Nadda’s claim, Moran said the “misleading” statement was made for “political gains” which should be avoided at all costs. Barman said nothing has happened so far but the government should now “display its sincerity” by introducing the bill for the ST status in Parliament session starting January 19.
Gogoi, on the other hand, said the ST issue has become a political football, kicked from the Centre to the state and vice-versa. “But if the BJP-led government doesn’t take a concrete decision by January 26, we will give a fitting reply in the Assembly polls later this year,” he said.