Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Opposition on Monday staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha dissatisfied with the government stand on the recent violence in Assam and the demand for granting Scheduled Tribe status to six tea and ex-tea garden communities of the State.

Responding to questions during a calling attention motion on the situation during and after the demonstration by the All-Adivasi Students Association of Assam on November 24, Home Minister Shivraj Patil said contradictory reports from various State governments delayed a decision on the demand.

He pointed out that the then State government in 1999 asked the Centre not to include these communities in the ST list as other tribes living in the area would suffer.

At this, the Opposition protested. With the Minister refusing to yield, the Bharatiya Janata Party led the Opposition in a walkout.

Mr. Patil said the matter was examined several times by the Registrar General of India (RGI). Also, the Lokur Committee – which considered the issue in 1965 — did not favour ST status to tea plantation labourers.

On the demand for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the November 24 violence, he said the Centre generally does not refuse if a request came from a State government. However, with more and more cases being referred to the CBI, it was getting over-burdened.

Mr. Patil did not rule out terrorist organisations fishing in troubled waters in Assam but did not name any group. On the death toll — a question raised by many a member — he said the State government reported only two deaths.

Earlier, in a written statement, he listed the efforts taken by the State government to restore normality. including the institution of a judicial inquiry. Also, it had asked the administration of all districts with a mixed population of adivasis and non-adivasis to take preventive steps to prevent another ethnic flare up.