GUWAHATI: The National Democratic Front of Boroland (Progressive) has backed granting of Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to Koch-Rajbonghis and the tea workers community for espousing the cause of a separate tribal-dominated Bodoland state.
NDFB(P), which is currently under a ceasefire agreement with the Centre, argued that at present only 65% of the seats are reserved for tribals in the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
The outfit has put forward the argument that in tribal states like Meghalaya, 90% of the seats in the assembly are reserved for tribals, which enables them to have rights over land, and exercise political power in finance and home affairs.
In contrast, NDFB(P) said, out of 46 seats in BTC, 30 seats are reserved for STs, five for non-tribal communities, five seats are open to all communities and six are nominated by the governor of Assam.
“The percentage of seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes in BTC is only 65%. Moreover, BTC neither has rights over land nor can it exercise political, finance and home powers independently. So, our demand is for a tribal-dominated Bodoland state where 90% of the seats are reserved for tribals,” an NDFB(P) statement said.
With a view to achieve a tribal-dominated Bodoland, the NDFB(P) has expressed its support for granting ST status to Koch-Rajbonghis and the tea workers community, who are present in sizeable numbers in the BTC area.
The Koch-Rajbongshis and tea garden workers (or Adivasis, as they are called) have been for long demanding ST status. A number of armed outfit have also sprung up from the Adivasi community to champion the cause of granting them ST status, while Koch-Rajbongshi organizations have launched several agitations for the same demand. Initially, Bodo organizations were skeptical, and even expressed reservations against granting of ST status to these communities, especially the Adivasis, arguing that these people were not “sons of the soil”. Today’s Adivasis are a mix of tribes brought to the state by the British during the late 19th and early 20th centuries from central, eastern and southeastern regions of India to work as indentured labourers in Assam’s tea gardens.