JAGIROAD:The resurgent Bhartiya Janata Party in Assam is clamouring for change. This king is too.
Deepsing Deoraja, who is the king of the Tiwas (tribesmen) but without power or a dynasty, wants the state’s ruling Congress to go.
The Tiwa dynasty ceased to exist centuries ago but 19 symbolic kings, headed by Deepsing, who is called the Gobha Raja, still continue to hold royal positions. The Tiwas are influential in Central Assam’s Jagiroad and Morigaon constituencies, which will go to the polls in the second phase of voting on April 11.
“They (Congress) are urging people to vote for them for development. But what development have they done over the past 15 years in power. The condition of roads and bridges has remained deplorable for years” the 26-year-old King Deepsing, dressed casually in a Beatles T-shirt and trousers, told Express. He was crowned king when he was only five years old.
“I stand for change. The 18 other kings under me too stand for change. We are hopeful that whichever party replaces the Congress, it will be able to deliver it to the people,” he said.
As per tradition, the Tiwa kings neither take sides with any political party nor do they try to influence the voters. But the Tiwas – and their kings too – are miffed that despite promises made by the Tarun Gogoi government, the Chief Minister has not given them land for their Jonbeel mela, which is held annually in Morigaon. Money loses its relevance at this historic mela for one day, when people exchange merchandise through the barter system.
According to the 2001 Census reports, the Plains Tiwas, who are scattered all over the state, have a population of 1,71,000. Their number in the hills is believed to be much smaller, around 10,000. There are divergent indigenous narratives about their migration. Some claim they came from Tibet while others say they were forced to flee the oppression of the Dimasa king of the Kachari kingdom in eastern Assam.
The Congress and the BJP are braced for a tough fight in both Jagiroad and Morigaon. Both the seats are held by the Congress.
Over the past 25 years, Jagiroad has witnessed straight contests between the Congress and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). But this election, the fight is expected to be between the BJP and the Congress. The sitting MLA, Bibekananda Dalai, faces an anti-incumbency wave. He is up against the BJP’s Piyush Hazarika, who is a former rebel Congress MLA.
In Morigaon, the BJP has fielded an influential Tiwa leader Ramakanta Deuri who is all charged up to give the sitting MLA Jonjonali Baruah a run for her money. She is the wife of a former Congress leader, who was killed by the militants.