The Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA) and Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) held a joint demonstration in Tinsukia district of Upper Assam on Thursday to press for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for tea tribes and repeal of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
They were supported by the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASAA), Adivasi Suraksha Sam-iti, Chai Janajati Mahila Samiti, Adivasi Mahila Samiti and dozens of other organisations. “Through this programme, Hamder Awaz (our voice), we will create awareness among the people over ST status and CAA. We will hold awareness programmes in all the tea gardens here. Today, we are holding a demonstration at Khobong tea estate (near Doomdooma town). On January 5, we will hold a five-hour Vishal Gana Samavesh (large rally) at Kumseng Selengguri Dumka Line Khelpathar field (23km from Doomdooma town) from 10am,” Irot Tanti, secretary of ATTSA’s Doomdooma unit, said. Tanti alleged that the government was lackadaisical towards the problems of the tea community and demanded immediate solutions. A college student, Jharkhand Tanti, said, “Assam is the only state in India where tea tribes are yet to be given ST status. As a result, political parties take advantage during elections.” Many other students expressed anguish that the Assam tea community’s long-standing demand for ST status had not been fulfilled.
Tanti said the BJP-led state government had, in its election manifesto, assured six communities of the state, including tea tribes, of ST status if voted to power but had done nothing so far. He warned of a massive agitation if their demands were not fulfilled soon.
The Union cabinet had approved tribal status for the six communities, Tai Ahom, Koch-Rajbongshi, Chutia, tea tribes, Moran and Muttock, in January last year. The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill was listed for introduction in the winter session of Parliament along with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill but while the latter was passed on December 11, the former was not tabled.
The CAA has aroused nationwide protest. Tanti said, “CAA is a threat to our community. When illegal immigrants are granted citizenship, land and work, where will our people go? They (immigrants) will be ready to work for Rs 100 a day in place of Rs 350 a day and without any facilities in order to survive. As such, tea growers will prefer to employ them. Hence, we are opposed to CAA. We also demand ST status for our tea community people.”