Karbi Anglong tense after Govt announces ST status for Bodos in the district

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Karbi Anglong district of Assam has become tense following the Centre’s decision to include Bodos living in the two hill districts of Assam as Scheduled Tribe (hills). Over 10,000 people from different parts of the district gathered and blocked railway tracks at Diphu station in protest against the Centre’s decision, which they dubbed a “murder of Karbis’ democratic rights”.

Services of eight trains, including three long-distance ones, were suspended because of the blockade, which continued for six hours today. The protest was called by a newly floated platform consisting most of the political and non-political organisations in the district. The Hills Tribes Protection Forum suspended the protest at 11am when deputy commissioner Mukul Gogoi, on behalf of Dispur, assured them that there would soon be a discussion with chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal regarding the decision.

There are 27 Scheduled Tribes (hills), of which Shyams and Tiwas were included in 1984 and 2004 respectively.The decision to grant ST (hills) status to the Bodos living in the hills of the state and ST status to the Karbis living in the plains of Assam (Morigaon and Kamrup) was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Kokrajhar visit. Modi’s cabinet passed the decision on May 25, a day after the BJP came to power in the state.

The Centre’s decision was taken according to the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council’s executive committee resolution taken on October 25, 1991, in which it was stated that ST (hills) status for Tiwas and Bodos living in the hills could be considered. According to that resolution, the status would be given after the hilly belt of the state comprising the two hill districts gets autonomous state status under Article 244 (a) of the Constitution.

Tiwas were, however, included as ST (hills) 13 years after the Council’s Executive Committee decision. Even in that case the Council’s resolution was partially violated.

Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council chief executive member Tuliram Ranghang stated that the Government’s decision to include Bodos as Scheduled Tribes is unacceptable as they are not indigenous to the districts. The present 5 per cent reservation is too little for the existing Scheduled Tribes and it is unacceptable that another tribe is added to the long list,” said Ranghang, former Autonomous State Demand Committee.  Lok Sabha member Jayanta Rongpi and Baithalangso legislator Man Sing Rongpi are the three conveners of the new platform.

“We have suspended our agitation temporarily as chief minister Sonowal has assured us that the government would sit with our leadership tomorrow to find a solution,” said Hill State Demand Council leader W. Mukrang.

Mukrang said a four-member team from the platform will move Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh within two days for a solution to the crisis.

“Before taking any decision which is sensitive, serious and related to the socio-economic lifestyle of the indigenous tribes, the government should sit with the local council and other organisations. In case of this new decision the government has not taken anybody into confidence,” said senior Karbi leader and council executive member Ashok Teron.

The population of Bodos in Karbi Anglong is 50,000-plus but not much in neighbouring Dima Hasao. Langhin, Hauraghat in Diphu subdivision, Borthol in Hamren and Bokajan in east Karbi Anglong are some pockets where Bodos reside.

Bodos, however, said the Centre’s decision is the outcome of the 60-year-long struggle of the community living in the hills.

“Bodos are indigenous here and the present status is according to the resolution of the Council’s Executive body and nobody should question its legitimacy,” said Langhin council constituency member Sarat Brahma.

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