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'ST status to new Assam communities will destroy existing tribes'

New Delhi, November 18 (IANS) The central government's proposal to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to six advanced and populous communities in Assam will destroy the existing tribes, the Coordination Committee of the Tribal Organisations of Assam (CCTOA) said on Friday.


Describing the move as detrimental to tribes and anti-tribal, the CCTOA said the granting of ST status to those communities, including Koch Rajbongshi and Tai-Ahom, will eliminate political representation of the existing STs from village councils up to the Lok Sabha.


Following the proposal, hundreds of members from the Bodo community have staged a sit-in at the Jantar Mantar here under the banner of the CCTOA.


Bodo community, the largest tribal group in Assam, has been opposed to the proposal ever since it was demanded by the United Liberation Front of Assam's (ULFA) faction that favours peace talks during the ongoing parleys with the government.


Based on the demands, the central government had earlier this year set up a committee to recommend the modalities for granting the Scheduled Tribe status to six communities -- Koch Rajbongshi, Moran, Matak, Tai Ahom, Chutia and Adivasi (Tea Tribes) -- in Assam.


According to the CCTOA, the seats reserved for the existing STs in the Autonomous District Councils (Bodoland Territorial Council, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and Dima Hasao District Autonomous Council), under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution can be contested by the new tribes, leading to a poor representation of the existing tribes.


"The six communities, to which the government is trying to grant ST status, are educationally and economically advanced, populous and there is no way the existing STs can compete with them," said Pramod Bodo, President All Bodo Student's Union, in a statement.


"The Tai-Ahom and the Tea Tribes are very large communities, each claiming to have 50 lakhs plus population, and the Koch Rajbanshis and the Tai-Ahoms are very advanced, having considerable political and economic clout over the state," Bodo told IANS.


"Majority of these communities do not possess characteristics which define tribals in India. No study has proved that these communities are politically, economically, educationally, socially and culturally backward justifying the grant of the ST status," said Bodo.


Terming the move a "betrayal", Bodo earlier in an interview told IANS that the Bharatiya Janata Party government, both in the state and the Centre, was anti-tribal and wanted to snatch their basic rights.