Modi government speeds up process to grant ST status to six ethnic communities of Assam

  • Modi government speeds up process to grant ST status to six ethnic communities of Assam
04-04-2015 , :: . |

Wary of the fast changing demographic profile in districts bordering Bangladesh in favour of Bangladeshi Muslim population, Centre has started making quick moves to make Assam a tribal majority state.

Tribal affairs ministry has been asked to prepare a cabinet note in April itself to explain in detail the case for inclusion of six communities of Assam Moran, Mutock, Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshis, Sootea and 36 tea tribes in the Scheduled Tribes list.

Once these communities get the status of scheduled tribes, it would bring in more than 40 per cent population of Assam under tribal status.

This figure, when translated into assembly strength, would bring as many as 80 out of 126 assembly seats under reserved tribal status, thus ensuring that despite changes in demography, Assam's politics would not be dictated by Bangladeshi Muslims, said sources.

The decision to prepare an express cabinet note was arrived at in a meeting between union home minister Rajnath Singh and tribal affairs ministers Jual Oram in the presence of the Registrar General of India, this week.

Taking note of Assam government's proposal the ministers decided to work out the plan to grant tribal status to six communities in question at the earliest.

All these six communities are currently on the list of other backward classes and would be willing to included in the list of scheduled tribes as the new status would accrue them more benefits.

Their inclusion became possible after insertion of new criteria for granting scheduled tribe status that includes socio-economic, including educational backwardness vis--vis rest of the population of the state; historical geographical location; consideration of autonomous religious practices where the priests or ojas are from the community; distinct language or dialect; presence of a core culture relating to life-style, marriage, songs, dances, paintings and folklore; and, endogamy or marital relationship primarily with other Scheduled Tribes.

Sources said the Registrar General of India (RGI), National Commission for Scheduled Tribes(NCST) and Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) have already submitted their opinion on granting these six communities the scheduled tribe status.

Once the decision is cleared by the cabinet, a bill be drafted between the tribal affairs and union home ministry and tabled in the parliament. Sources said they are confident of getting the legislation passed by both the houses of the parliament in one session, possibly the monsoon session, as the major opposition party Congress is already on board.

The catalyst to the whole move came because of religion data of 2011 census that has not been revealed so far but, according to sources, made the union home ministry and PMO sit up in alarm because of 5-7 per cent change in the demographic profile (in absolute terms) in favour of Bangladeshi Muslims as compared to 2001 census.

The possible fallouts of demographic change were discussed in detail by national security advisor Ajit Doval with top officials of the union home ministry officials and security agencies and sounded out to the senior cabinet ministers.

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