NEW DELHI, Aug 6 - Notwithstanding stiff opposition from the tribal groups of Assam, the Centre is mulling change of modalities to grant Schedule Tribe (ST) status to six communities of the State.
In an interaction between the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Register General of India (RGI) with representative of the six communities, including Koch Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Moran, Matak, Chutia and Adivasi, it was clarified that the demand for ST status is likely to be fulfilled, though a time-frame was not specified.
The interaction, held at Jawaharlal Nehru National Stadium premises, was addressed by Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Sarbananda Sonowal and RGI Dr C Chandramouli. Other attendances were BJP MPs Bijoya Chakravarty, Kamakhya Prasad Tassa, Rameshwar Telli and RP Sharma, among others.
The six communities were represented by Sadou Asom Chah Janajati Chatra Sanstha, Sadou Asom Koch Rajbongshi Chatra Sanstha, Tai-Ahom Chatra Sanstha, Matak Yuba Chatra Sanmilani, Maran Chatra Sanstha and Chutia Jati Yuba Sanmilani.
Emerging from the meeting, the Union Tribal Affairs Minister declared that the six communities are likely to be given ST status. A Draft Note for changing the modalities has been circulated and it is currently with the Union Cabinet.
Declining to specify a time-frame, he said that the ball is with the Union Cabinet. �In 10-15 days, we will know,� he said.
The Minister further allayed the apprehension of the existing tribal groups, asserting that they need not worry.
Speaking along the same line, Sonowal said that the existing tribal groups would not face any problem. Modalities are being changed to accommodate the demands of the six communities. However, he added that the Central government would need some time.
Talking to newsmen, the RGI said that the demand of the six communities was old. It is not possible to grant them ST status according to the current modalities; hence they need to be changed, he remarked.
The Centre had on at least five occasions rejected the demand of the Koch Rajbongshi community.
Replying to questions, Dr Chandramouli said that it is not possible to give specific time-frame. �But work is on to change the modalities,� he said
Meanwhile, sources said that if the modalities are changed, at least 1,000 communities spread across different States would be benefitted.
In 2002-2003, when Jual Oram was the Minister in Vajpayee Cabinet, a proposal was mooted to grant ST status to the six communities but the Assam government was not very keen.
Hiteswar Barman of Sadou Asom Koch Rajbongshi Chatra Sanstha said that though they were assured of ST status, he was not satisfied because the Centre has declined to specify a time-frame. �It should not be a lengthy process. We want a time-frame before the Assembly election,� he said.
An aspect behind Centre�s change in line of thinking is the demographic changes in Assam due to illegal migration. The NDA government at the Centre is contemplating to turn the State into a tribal majority by according Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the six communities.