Registrar disfavours Assam tea tribes’ demand: Patil


New Delhi : Home Minister Shivraj Patil Tuesday said the Registrar General of India (RGI) was not in favour of granting Scheduled Tribes status to tea tribes of Assam even as violence continued to rock the state during the last phase of the 36-hour general strike called by tribals.

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Making a statement in the Lok Sabha, Patil said the RGI has rejected the proposal of the state government to grant ST status to the tea tribes.

“There has been a demand for giving Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to tea and ex-tea garden communities comprising Munda, Oran, Gonds, Santhals from Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh,” said Patil.

“This has been examined several times by the office of the RGI. The Lokur Committee also had considered this issue in 1965 and had noted that they agreed with the opinion of the Backward Classes Commission and did not recommend the tea plantation labourers to be treated as STs.”

Patil said that according to the RGI, the settlers in the tea tribes have lost their tribal characteristics in the new surroundings and some of the tribes are not given the status of ST in their native states either.

Patil also said that initially, the state government also rejected the demand but now it was supporting it.

“Moreover, the office of RGI noted that many of the tea tribe communities were not STs even in their native states – Basor, Bhattar, Basphoor, Bhagta, Tandoi – were Scheduled Castes in their native states while Bhamij, Beha were listed as SC/ST in different states of origin.”

A police spokesman said strike supporters attacked a group of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) activists near Bordubi village in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district.

Eight tribal activists were arrested for the attack on the police patrol as sporadic incidents of violence were reported from Kokrajhar, Dibrugarh and Sonitpur districts. Seven people were injured in clashes with strike supporters.

On the first day of the strike Monday, one person was killed and 20 injured in separate incidents, officials said.

The strike has been called by the All Adivasi Students Association (AASA) in protest against Saturday’s mob violence in the state’s main city of Guwahati that left one of their community members dead and more than 200 injured. The strike ends at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The tribals account for about six percent of Assam’s 26 million people. Most of them work in the state’s 800-odd tea plantations.