Six communities in Assam — Chutia, Matak, Moran, Koch-Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Tea Tribes — have expressed their anger against the Central government for not granting them the Scheduled Tribes (ST) status which has been a long pending demand in the state.
Members of the communities staged a series of protests in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts on Thursday during which they burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
They have also threatened to soon launch a wide-scale agitation across the northeast if their demand was further ignored.
Members of the Koch-Rajbonghi community said: “The entire northeast will face a total paralysis like situation if our demands are not met. We will stage an economic blockade if the Centre keeps playing with our emotions.”
The protest gained momentum after the union cabinet recently approved the addition of some 12 communities to the ST list from in Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The All Tai Ahom Students Union (ATASU) said that a committee appointed by the Assam government had submitted its findings to grant the ST status a long ago, but the matter did not advance further.
They ATASU further claimed that there was no explanation by the Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on why the communities were not added in the ST list.
In January 2019 when the state had witnessed massive public outrage against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), former Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram had introduced a bill in the Rajya Sabha to include the six communities of Assam in the ST category.
However, the bill was not put to vote and it got lapsed.
Assam opposition MLA and Raijor Dal chief Akhil Gogoi has alleged that the ruling BJP is misleading the communities even after the cabinet passed the law.
“The Centre has a hidden agenda it seems and wants to use the ST issue for their political benefits,” he added.
Notably, Gogoi also belongs to the Ahom community.