Exiled Bengal leader hints at ST status for Koch-Rajbongshis

February 11, 2021 03:47 pm | Updated 03:47 pm IST - GUWAHATI

An “exiled” leader of West Bengal has hinted at his community, the Koch-Rajbongshi, being granted Scheduled Tribe (ST) status in Assam.

Ananta Rai, a self-proclaimed king of Cooch Behar in northern West Bengal and a spiritual leader, has been living in Chirang near Bongaigaon town for a few years. He had claimed to have been in exile for fighting for the “independent state” of Cooch Behar.

“Good news for the Koch-Rajbongshi community is on the way,” Mr. Rai told journalists after Union Home Minister Amit Shah paid him a visit around noon on Thursday.

Influence over voters

Mr. Shah’s visit is believed to be significant because of Mr Rai’s clout in the community who comprise a sizeable chunk of voters in western Assam and northern West Bengal, which along with parts of Bangladesh once formed the medieval Koch kingdom.

The Koch-Rajbongshis are one of six communities – the others are Adivasi, Chutia, Matak, Moran and Tai-Ahom – that have been demanding ST status for decades.

The BJP, which rules Assam in alliance with two regional parties, has been splurging on the Adivasis, referred to as “tea tribes”. The Adivasis form about 20% of Assam’s population and swing votes in about 45 of Assam’s 126 Assembly seats.

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