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CCTOA opposes granting ST status to six communities of Assam

From our Correspondent

KOKRAJHAR, May 28: The Coordition Committee of Tribal Organizations, Assam (CCTOA) has vehemently opposed the proposal of granting ST status to advanced communities of Assam which do not fulfill the criteria required for being ST. The organization organized a tiol-level semir at Constitutiol Club in New Delhi recently where noted persolities, including former Home Secretary, Government of India and Advocate General of Meghalaya and prominent persons in different fields attended the semir and share their views. The CCTOA has said that the proposal for granting of ST status to advanced and populous communities will elimite political rights of the genuine tribals of Assam.

Aditya Khakhlari, chief coorditor of CCTOA, said the move would extermite the language, culture, identity and existence of the tribals. He said the existing STs would not have access to higher education and government jobs. The proposal of the Government of Assam and Government of India to grant Scheduled Tribes (ST) status to six advanced and populous OBC communities of Assam mely, Koch Rajbongshi, Tai-Ahom, Chutia, Moran, Motok and Adivasi (Tea-Tribes) was a conspiracy to destroy/extermite the existing Scheduled Tribes of Assam. If these majority communities are granted Scheduled Tribes status 70 years after India’s independence, it will elimite (i) political representation of the existing STs from Gram Sabha to Lok Sabha and (ii) representation in education and jobs forever. This will destroy and extermite the language, culture, identity and existence of the genuine Scheduled Tribes of Assam. He also said the move on the part of the Government of India was nothing but aimed at Assam to take political advantage. The move itself was repugnt to the law of the land and it should be opposed unequivocally. “We need to resort to legal action against the move as well as political steps to foil this ugly design of government,” he said.

 The semir on ‘Scheduling of New Communities as SC/ST in India-Problems, Prospects and Threats’ held at Constitution Club of India was presided over by Suhas Chakma, human rights activist. It was decided to oppose granting of Scheduled Tribe status to the six communities of Assam as it would destroy/extermite the STs of Assam and India. The semir was iugurated by J. D. Seelam, former Fince Minister, Government of India

 Suhas Chakma, chairperson of the semir, said this was a very complex issue as it involved politics and power. Only Adivasis had characteristics of STs. “If Assamese are to be declared STs, what would happen to real STs?” he questioned and said the consequences were serious, it would be like providing ST status to Mees in Rajasthan.

 ABSU president Promod Boro in his welcome speech said the semir was very important. He said the Government of India and Government of Assam gave political commitment but these governments did not understand the real facts. This was the second semir regarding this issue.

 “Our approach is legal, constitutiol and holistic. Ours is a constitutiol language. We have been trying to tell the government that if you are thinking about the advanced communities, why not about the down trodden?” he questioned.

 Aditya Khakhlari, coorditor of the organization, in his key note address said the move was a conspiracy to destroy/extermite the existing STs of Assam. He said if granted STs to these six communities, it would elimite political representation of STs from Gram Sabha to State Assemblies to LS and representation in education and jobs forever. There is no way the existing STs would be able to compete with these six advanced communities. He further said that the six communities did not fulfill the criteria set for enlisting a tribe under ST under the Indian Constitution.

 Dr. Gurran Shrinivas, Assistant Professor, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the granting of ST to these six communities would complicate the matter and affect other states. More and more communities would demand ST status. In case of Assam, inclusion of six communities, some already in OBC list, the real STs would face margilization within STs and hence the entire purpose of providing rights to STs would be defeated. Mees in Rajasthan are taking more resources from the ST reservations.

 Niroop Reddy, senior advocate, Supreme Court and Advocate General of Meghalaya, said the real problem was that there was no uniform policy on identification of STs. He said the Government of India had not accepted the existence of indigenous people in the UN which was contradictory to the existence of IPs in India. “There is a need for proper comprehensive policy on identification of STs and to reconcile our ST policy with the UN policy on IPs. Since the decision to grant ST status to six new communities in Assam is a political decision, there is need to deal with this politically,” he said.

 GK Pillai, former Home Secretary, Government of India, said that this problem came as a result of the Assam Agitation against foreigners. The Assam Accord of 1985 says the government will look at the constitutiol safeguard of indigenous communities of Assam. But there is no consensus over who is indigenous and who is not. Now the process of identification of indigenous communities is happening through the NRC based on 1951, 1971 electoral rolls. He further stated that ULFA was under peace talks. He said this move to declare six communities as STs was one option which came up as part of discussions to resolve the foreigners issue and providing safeguard to the indigenous communities in Assam. Muslims constituted 35 per cent of the population of Assam and politically were very significant. One school of thought is that if six communities are declared as STs, majority constituencies under Muslim domition will become reserved seats for STs and hence Muslim domition will be prevented. It is a political move but it will not be easy for the government to confer ST status as there are clear criteria which majority of these communities did not qualify. Judicial scrutiny on the government’s move is necessary, he said. He also said the government needed to find political protection for the existing STs instead of margilizing them further.