24-hour Assam bandh called on September 23
From our Correspondent
KOKRAJHAR, September 21: The Coordition Committee of the Tribal Organizations of Assam (CCTOA), the umbrella organization of the Scheduled Tribe (Plains) people of Assam, in its meeting held on Wednesday at the Tribal Rest House in Guwahati, has decided to call for a 24- hour Assam bandh on September 23 in protest against granting of Scheduled Tribes (ST) status to six advanced and populous OBC communities mely, Koch-Rajbongshi, Tai-Ahom, Moran, Motok, Chutia and Adivasi (tea-tribes) of Assam as it would destroy the STs of Assam and India.
In a joint press statement, the chief coorditor of CCTOA, Aditya Khaklary, ABSU president and coorditor of CCTOA, Promod Boro, president of Takam Mising Porin Kebang, resh Kumbang, president of Assam Tribal Youth League, Rimal Amsih and joint secretary of All Assam Tribal Sangha, Dhiren Ingti, said if these six communities were accorded ST status it would mean that all the seats in educatiol institutions, government jobs and political institutions (whether autonomous councils or the State assembly) currently reserved for the STs could be contested by these communities. This would destroy the current STs of Assam as there could not be differential treatment for the same group of people i.e. (Scheduled Tribes) as per the Constitution of India.
They said that the Mees of Rajasthan who constitute about 1.6 per cent of the STs of India as per 2011 census, secured 35.5 per cent of the seats reserved for the STs in the Civil Services Examition conducted by the UPSC during 2013-2014 followed by 25 per cent in 2012-2013, 28.5 per cent during 2011-2012 and 38 per cent during 2010-2011. This suggests that if the mainstream communities of Assam are declared Scheduled Tribes, the competition for the seats reserved for STs with respect to education and employment at Central Government level will be between Mees and mainstream communities of Assam. This will seriously affect reservation for genuine STs of India. These communities are already notified as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and there is no provision to re-notify any community as tribals whose characteristics are different.
On several earlier occasions, the Registrar General of India(RGI) and the tiol Commission for STs have turned down such a proposal on the ground that these six communities do not fulfill the criteria set for enlisting a tribe as ST under the Indian Constitution. Replying to a question in the floor of Parliament on August 14, 2007, P. R. Kyndiah, the then Minister of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, had stated that the RGI had already commented eight times (1981, 1992, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2006) and rejected pleas of the above mentioned communities for scheduling as ST.
The joint statement stated said the Tai-Ahoms and the tea tribes were very large communities, each claiming to have 50 lakh plus population and the Koch-Rajbongshis and the Tai-Ahoms were very advanced communities having considerable political and economic clout over the State. Majority of these communities do not possess characteristics which define tribals in India, it stated, adding that there was no study to prove that many of these six communities were politically, economically, educatiolly, socially and culturally backward, justifying the grant of Scheduled Tribe status.
The CCTOA stated that the seats reserved for the STs were currently obtained by the Mees of Rajasthan mainly. It stated that if the Koch Rajbongshis were granted ST status in Assam, the Koch Rajbongshis from West Bengal would migrate to Assam so that they could compete for the ST seats. The mainstream Assamese are notified as STs, the genuine STs of all over the country will further suffer as they will not be able to compete with the mainstream communities. It is not only the tribals of Assam but the STs all over India which will be harmed if these six communities are granted ST status. All these six communities have varied backgrounds. The Koch Rajbongshis are listed as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in West Bengal and the most famous Koch Rajbongshi is Maharani Gayatri Devi of Rajasthan. The CCTOA stated that the granting of ST status would mean giving inducement to the Koch Rajbongshis of West Bengal to migrate to Assam. The Tai Ahoms, Chutias, Morans and Motoks have always been considered as the mainstream Assamese. In modern India’s history, the mainstream Assamese have neither been classified as tribals nor hd any special administrative arrangement been made even by the British.
“The Adivasis are not indigenous to our area and special rights of indigenous people of Assam must be protected,” the statement said, adding, “The CCTOA wants that the six communities should not be granted Scheduled Tribe status. The Government of India should take initiative to resolve the problem of the six communities by taking necessary measures within the provisions for the OBC and MOBC.”