Six ethnic groups in Assam have called for a statewide bandh on November 15 to press for their demand of a Scheduled Tribe status, The Hindu reported on Saturday.
The bandh has been called by the forum Soy Janagosthi Joutha Mancha. It comprises of the Adivasis, or “tea tribes”, Morans, Muttocks, Koch Rajbongshis, Tai Ahoms, and Chutiyas.
All six communities are currently included in Assam’s list of Other Backward Classes. They together comprise of more than 30% of Assam’s electorate.
In the run-up to the 2014 general elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had acknowledged their demand for a Scheduled Tribe status during a rally in Bongaigaon.
Ahead of the 2016 Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party had mentioned in its manifesto that if elected, it would work in “close co-operation with the central government towards providing ST [Scheduled Tribe] status to the six communities of Assam in a strict time bound manner”.
In 2019, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had announced in the Lok Sabha that the Cabinet had approved Scheduled Tribe status for the six communities. Subsequently, a Bill to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 was also introduced in the Parliament, but has remained pending ever since.
In the last few years, the communities have accused the BJP of betraying them.
On Saturday, Diganta Tamuli, the general secretary of the Tai-Ahom Yuba Parishad, warned that if the six communities are not granted Scheduled Tribe status before the 2024 general elections, they would campaign against the BJP.
“We will not let any mission of the BJP be successful,” Tamuli said, according to The Hindu.
Stephen Lakra, the president of All Assam Adivasi Students’ Association, alleged that the BJP has no intention of passing the Bill.
“A group of ministers was formed during the first BJP-led government in Assam to deal with the ST issue,” Lakra said, according to the newspaper. “ But this group is yet to submit its report to the Centre for necessary action, indicating the BJP and its allies have no intention to do so.”
Besides the statewide dharna on November 15, the group will also hold a protest in Delhi on November 30.