BONGAIGAON, March 19 � The Congress is likely to lose the support of Santals in the ensuing BTC polls as the party has allegedly failed to safeguard the Constitutional rights of the community in the State and the BTAD.
�The 12-lakh strong Santal population in the State � 3.5 lakh in the BTAD area � will not support the Congress party in the BTC polls and the 2016 Assembly polls due to its failure to protect the rights of the community since 1998,� said the president of All Santal Students� Union, Kain Kumar Hembrom at a press conference held at the Greater Bongaigaon Press Club on Wednesday. But the student leaders did not disclose which party they would support in the BTC polls.
During the 17th century, the Santals came to the State and lived in the forests, the organising secretary of the student body, Riman Soren said, adding: �We are not migrants; rather we are indigenous to the land and it is the Government which often clubs us under the tea community or tea tribe to create divisions among us.�
Though the Santals are a �protected class� according to the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886, the State Government has failed to safeguard the Constitutional rights of the community after the three violent attacks by militants in 1996, 1998 and 2015 in the BTAD, Hembrom said.
�The displaced Santals, who were living in shelter camps, found that their land have been occupied by their Bodo neighbours on their return to their native villages. This has forced many Santals to live in huts on forest land,� Hembrom alleged.
Rehabilitation schemes for the displaced Santals have not been implemented properly in accordance with the commitment made by the Government in the BTAD, the union�s organising secretary alleged.
�We seek Scheduled Tribe status, land rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, promotion of Santali language from the primary to the university level and rehabilitation of the displaced Santals. If the Congress-led State Government does not address our demands within this year, we will continue our movement against the party,� Soren warned.