Guwahati/Tamulpur/Kokrajhar, February 5, 2019
The 12-hour Assam bandh called by the Bodoland Janajati Suraksha Mancha (BJSM) against the centre’s decision to accord Scheduled Tribes (ST) status to the six “advanced” communities such as Chutia, Motok, Moran, Koch-Rajbongshi, Tai-Ahom and Tea Tribes/Adivasis on February 5th, 2019 evoked mixed response across the state.
Normal life came to a halt in areas like Kumarikata, Dwarkuchi, Kalakuchi, Dimlapar, Puran Chawk and Motonga Chawk of Tamulpur in the Baksa district. Shopkeepers kept their shutters down; the daily markets and the roads wore a deserted look.
On the other hand, the shutdown called by Tai Ahom Yuba Parishad also hit the normal movement of life in Sivasagar district and Udalguri district on February 5th, 2019. No reports of untoward incident have been reported throughout the day during the state-wide shutdown.
Meanwhile, normal life was paralyzed in the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) districts on February 5th, 2019 due to 12-hour Assam bandh. All kinds of road communication, markets, financial institutions remained closed. Most of the government offices saw thin attendance due to unavailability of transport facilities. The national highway wore deserted due to the bandh. Emergency services, essential services and school colleges were exempted from the purview of the bandh. Hundreds of truck and buses stranded at various places including West Bengal -Assam inter-state check gate Srirampur on February 5th, 2019.
The Mancha demanded the withdrawal of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2019. It may be mentioned that the Centre’s plan for ST Bill, 2019, has evoked anger among tribal communities in Assam. The All Bodo Students’ Union also opposed the Centre’s move to grant ST status to the six communities. “The bandh was successful,” claimed Bodoland Janajati Suraksha Mancha leader Daorao Dekhreb Narzary.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal stated that granting ST status to six communities of the state would be finalised without affecting the rights and privileges of the existing ST communities.
Addressing a delegation comprising of members of 14 organizations of the Koch-Rajbongshi community here on January 29th, 2019, he said that both the central and state governments have taken sincere steps for according ST status to the six communities to protect the interests of the indigenous communities and the unique identity of Assam. He also assured the delegation that the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2019 would never harm the interests of the indigenous people.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had also assured that a Bill will soon be introduced in the Parliament to grant ST status to 6 communities which include Koch Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Chutia, Moran, Matak and tea tribes of the state.
Inputs: Abhijit Talukdar, Samiran Duwara