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Centre mulls ST status to 6 State communities

By The Assam Tribune

NEW DELHI, May 18 � Worried over the possible demographic changes in Assam due to illegal immigration, the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre is contemplating to turn the State into a tribal majority by according Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to six communities.

The move came after the pro-talk faction of the ULFA, which is having peace talks with the Centre, made it clear that it would give up the demand for Assam�s sovereignty only if the Koch-Rajbongshi, Moran, Muttock, Chutia, Tai Ahom and tea tribe communities are given ST status, a Home Ministry official told PTI.

The group, led by ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, voiced strong concern over the alleged unabated illegal immigration from Bangladesh and conveyed to the government that granting ST status to the six communities was the only way out to protect the interests of the indigenous people of Assam.

The BJP has been vocal against the illegal immigration from Bangladesh since the early 1980s when the All Assam Students� Union launched the six-year agitation against Bangladeshi immigrants.

If the NDA government takes a decision to grant ST status to the six communities, it would give a big boost to the prospects of the BJP in the Assam Assembly elections, expected to be held early next year.

All these six communities are currently listed as Other Backward Classes and are willing to be included in the list of Scheduled Tribes as the new status would give them more benefits.

As per the 2011 Census, the total population in Assam is 3.12 crore and the total population of the six communities, along with the existing tribals like Bodos, Sonowal-Kacharis, Dimasas and Karbis, would be around 50 per cent.

This figure, when translated into Assembly strength, would bring as many as 80 out of the 126 Assembly seats under the reserved tribal status, thus ensuring that despite changes in the demography, the indigenous population would continue to enjoy political power.

In the next stage, once Assam becomes a tribal majority State, the Centre would start the process of delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies after the 2021 Census.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh had at least two rounds of meeting with Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram and discussed the issue threadbare, officials said.

The Tribal Affairs Ministry is expected to prepare a draft note soon to be tabled before the Union Cabinet. The Registrar General of India, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) have already submitted their opinions on granting these six communities ST status.

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