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Tribal forum opposes ST status

By Spl Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Oct 5 - Ahead of the October 15 deadline, the tribal communities of Assam on Wednesday reiterating their opposition to the Centre�s attempt to grant scheduled tribe (ST) status to six communities of Assam, urged the Union Home Ministry to abandon the move as it would adversely affect the existing ST people of the State.

The Coordination Committee of Tribal Organisation (CCTO) today made a formal presentation to the Government of India in this regard in a tripartite meeting held at North Block here this afternoon.

The meeting chaired by Special Secretary (Internal Security) Mahesh Kumar Singla, who is also the chairman of the committee to recommend modalities for grant of ST status to the six communities, was joined by Joint Secretary (Northeast) Satyendra Garg and the Centre�s interlocutor PC Haldar.

The Assam Government was represented by Principal Secretary (Home) Hemanta Narzary, State Home Secretary Rajib Borah and additional DG Pallab Bhattacharya. The CCTO delegation included All Assam Tribal Sangha president Milon Sonowal and general secretary Aditya Khaklari, and All Bodo Students Union president Promod Boro.

Emerging from the talks, Boro warned that if the interests of the tribals of Assam are not protected by the Centre, they would be left with no option but to launch a state-wide agitation.

Terming the Centre�s proposal to grant ST status to the six �advanced� and populous OBC communities of Koch Rajbongshi, Tai-Ahom, Moran, Matak, Chutia and Tea tribes as a political conspiracy, the tribal groups demanded that the Government of India should stop the move as it will harm the interests of the existing tribal people of Assam.

If these majority communities are granted ST status 70 years after independence, it shall eliminate political representation of the existing tribals from gram sabhas to Lok Sabha. They also pointed out that their representation in education and jobs would also be threatened forever.

The tribal groups pointed out that all the six communities are OBC communities in Assam and none of them qualifies to be recognised as ST community.

The CCTO also made a presentation showing how tribals of Assam suffered in 1996 after the Government of India erroneously granted ST status to a large group by promulgating an ordinance. They told the government officials that 62-100 per cent seats in educational institutions in Assam were captured by these communities.

They further submitted that Koch Rajbongshis are notified as OBC in neighbouring West Bengal. If the Koch Rajbongshi people are granted ST status in Assam, their counterparts in West Bengal will migrate to Assam, observed the tribal bodies.

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