Tribals call Assam bandh on Friday against Centre's move to grant ST status to six communities
The bandh comes amidst statewide protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which the Centre wants to pass to grant citizenship to the non-Muslim immigrants from neighbouring countries.
GUWAHATI: A conglomerate of tribal organisations has called for a 24-hour "Assam bandh" on Friday in protest against the Centre's move to grant scheduled tribe (ST) status to six "advanced" communities such as Chutia, Motok, Moran, Koch-Rajbongshi, Tai-Ahom and Tea Tribes/Adivasis.
The bandh comes amidst statewide protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which the Centre wants to pass to grant citizenship to the non-Muslim immigrants of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who migrated till December 31, 2014. Friday's bandh has been called by the Coordination Committee of Tribal Organisations. It accused the Central government of hatching a conspiracy to destroy the state's "original tribals".
"By keeping us in the dark, the government introduced a draft bill in the Parliament on Wednesday to grant ST status to the six communities. As this will destroy the existing ST communities, we will not accept this. We will launch a democratic movement to thwart its passage. As part of it, we have called the bandh on Friday. We will stage a series of protests in the coming days," the committee said.
The All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU), which is one of the organisations in the committee, said ST status to the six communities would eat into the political representation and economic, job and admission benefits of the 14 recognised tribal communities.
"The six communities in question are far more advanced than the 14 recognised tribes educationally, politically and economically. The Ahoms are not less than the Meenas of Rajasthan. In fact, they are more advanced than the Meenas," ABSU president Promode Bodo, who is a coordinator in the committee, said.He said the marginalized ST communities would be destroyed as the Rajbongshis, Ahoms and Tea Tribes/Adivasis together make up around 1.5 crore of Assam's 3.12 crore population compared to the 38 lakh tribals in the state.
"The Sarbananda Sonowal government cheated us by not taking us into confidence despite an assurance. The government says the six communities will be in 'other ST' category but there is nothing like this in the Constitution," Bodo said. The ABSU is miffed not just with Sonowal, who is a tribal, but also with the state's four tribal ministers and 22 tribal MLAs for their failure to resist the bill's introduction in Parliament. Meanwhile, leaders of the six communities are not amused. They sniffed that the Centre's move was an "election gimmick". Some organisations are viewing it as a ploy by the Centre to douse the flames of anger against Citizenship Bill.