GUWAHATI: An organisation of the tribals in Assam has stirred a hornet’s nest by asserting that the state’s non-tribals can never claim they are “Khilonjia” (indigenous).
“The non-tribals of Assam, claiming to be Khilonjia, goes against history, Constitution and law. We appeal to them to stop claiming that they are indigenous and sons of the soil,” the All Assam Kochari Samaj said in a statement issued on Saturday evening.
The statement, which has ruffled many a feather, assumes significance as it has come amidst a widespread agitation against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). The various organisations in Assam fear CAA is a direct threat to the land, language and culture of the state’s indigenous populace.
Giving a historical perspective of Kochari rulers, the Samaj said the Kochari kings had begun ruling Assam 1,500 years before the Mahabharata era.
“In the Indian history, the first Kochari king ruled Assam 1,500 years before the Mahabharata era. Subsequently, numerous Kochari kings ruled the region. Unfortunately, the history of the Kocharis has been either destroyed or concealed by the anti-Kochari Assam government and non-tribals,” the statement signed by the Samaj’s working president Manas Rabha, general secretary Pradip Sonowal and four others representing as many tribes stated.
“The United Nations has clearly specified that those who have a history of ruling a region for eras and have their own language and culture, only they are aborigines. But those, who migrated from other nations and are living here, cannot be indigenous. The Constitution of India also says so,” the statement said.
The Assam Sahitya Sabha, which is the state’s highest literary body, and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), which is spearheading the anti-CAA protests, slammed the Samaj.
“It’s an immature statement and we don’t want to get into a conflict. We appeal to them to come to the office of Assam Sahitya Sabha, sit with us and establish logically what they said,” Paramananda Rajbongshi, a former president of the Sabha, told this newspaper.
“This appeal is to ensure that the statement by the Samaj doesn’t create a conflict among communities and tribes,” he added.
The AASU appealed to everyone to refrain from making any statement that is “divisive”.
“A mass movement is going on and we want that nobody makes a statement that is divisive. Keeping in mind communal amity and a secure future for Assam, we appeal that people exercise restraint while making a statement,” AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said.