GUWAHATI: Daily activities in Assam came to a grinding halt on Monday during a 12-hour state-wide bandh which was called by six organisations demanding scheduled tribe (ST) status for six communities.
The bandh volunteers hit the streets across the state and ventilated their ire by burning tyres and chanting slogans against the Centre. Attendance in Central and state government offices, financial institutions and educational institutes was thin while vehicles, except those belonging to security personnel and on emergency services, remained off the roads.
The bandh, however, had no impact in Guwahati. The bandh was initially called for 48 hours until its duration being reduced to 12 hours on Monday morning.
The six communities such as Moran, Motok, Koch-Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Sutia and Adivasi or tea tribe have for long been demanding ST status. Recently, their leaders held a meeting with Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju in New Delhi. However, the meeting was inconclusive with Rijiju allegedly showing no interest to the demand.
The six communities believe that if they are accorded ST status, they can benefit from the advantages of reservation in education and government employment.
The All Assam Tai Ahom Students’ Union (AATASU) is one of the organisations which called the bandh. Its vice president Basanta Gogoi told TNIE that they had called the bandh as the Centre failed to fulfil the demand despite a commitment by the Narendra Modi government ahead of Assam election in 2016.
“The BJP has been in power at the centre for four years and in Assam for two years. So, the party got enough time to address the issue. But, instead of fulfilling the demand, it kept on using the six communities as vote-banks. Now, they have taken a decision not vote for the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha election,” Gogoi said.
Meanwhile, the Sarbananda Sonowal government drew censure from a section of people for its failure to prevent bandhs that are frequently called in the state despite a ban on them by the Gauhati High Court.
In 2010, the Gauhati HC had passed an order in respect of Assam and Meghalaya banning bandhs. Subsequently, bandhs became a thing of the past in Meghalaya as the government there started going hard at organisations calling bandhs. In contrast, the Assam government has not yet taken any step to thwart bandhs.