Other States

Karbis against ST status for hill Bodos in Assam

Participants return after attending an event to mark the signing of a peace accord with the Bodo rebel group, National Democratic Front of Bodoland, in Assam’s Kokrajhar on February 7, 2020.

Participants return after attending an event to mark the signing of a peace accord with the Bodo rebel group, National Democratic Front of Bodoland, in Assam’s Kokrajhar on February 7, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AP

Otherwise, our identity will come under threat, says Karbi outfit Karbi Longri and North Cachar Hills Liberation Front.

An Assam-based insurgent group of Karbis, which signed a ceasefire agreement with the Centre, has demanded that the Bodos in the hill areas not be given the Scheduled Tribe status as it will affect the “identity of the Karbis”.

The Home Ministry, the Assam government and Bodo groups signed the pact on January 27 to redraw and rename the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD), spread over Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri districts.

Under the agreement, the Bodos in the hills will be given the Scheduled Hill Tribe status and villages dominated by the Bodos outside the BTAD will be included and those with non-Bodos excluded.

The Bodos, an ethnic group in Assam, had been demanding a separate State since 1972, and are recognised as a Scheduled Tribe (Plain).

After the conclusion of the latest Bodo pact, the Karbi Longri and North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF), a militant group that signed a ceasefire pact with the Centre in 2009, has said a “political settlement” should be reached soon. “The identity of Karbis will come under threat if Bodos who live in the hill areas [along with Karbis] are also given a Scheduled Hill Tribe status,” KLNLF general secretary Thong Terong Kabi said.

The group’s primary demand was a separate State.

Also read | Accord drives divide in Assam’s Bodo domain | Bodos jubilant, other communities miffed | Searching for a solution: Editorial on Bodo accord

In Assam, there are 14 recognised Plain Tribe communities, 15 Hills Tribe communities and 16 Scheduled Caste communities.

After the peace accord with all Bodo groups, the Centre is at a very advanced stage of sealing a peace deal with other key militant groups, including the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the Karbi insurgent group. But, with the Assembly election in Assam due in April-May next year, the final announcements could be tailored to suit the ruling BJP electorally. The BJP is expected to do well in the 15 Assembly constituencies in the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley because of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). The recent Bodo peace deal will give the ruling party an edge in 12 seats under the BTAD. Similarly, a Karbi peace deal will give the party an edge in the 5 seats in the hill districts.

There are 33 districts in Assam, and seven have been exempted from the CAA as they fall in the areas protected by the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The exempted districts comprise three autonomous district councils: BTAD, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao.

Mr. Kabi said there was a lot of pressure from the people to conclude talks with the Centre. The group is in talks with the Centre’s interlocutor A.B Mathur. “90% dialogue is complete, we have had more than 50 rounds of talks with three interlocutors in the past 10 years. We want a final settlement on the lines of the Bodo agreement,” KLNLF’s publicity secretary Rijak Dera said.

The Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council has 26 seats, and the elections to the councils are due in 2022. “It is one of the oldest councils in existence since 1951... Nagaland and Mizoram that were autonomous councils initially became States years ago; only Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao remain. We want a ST status for the entire region so that non-tribals will not be able to contest in the elections,” Mr. Dera said. The non-tribals comprise 46% of the 9.6 lakh population of the council. The Bodos could not have a separate reservation in hills and plains, he said.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 9:53:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/karbis-against-st-status-for-hill-bodos-in-assam/article30854948.ece

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