When the BJP in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections had promised to grant ST status to the six ethnic groups of Assam, the people belonging to the six communities were ecstatic. The six communities— Koch-Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Moran, Mottok, Chutia and Adivasi (tea tribes)—were fully convinced at the promises made by the BJP.
They thought the saffron party, which promised to protect the land, culture and language of Assam before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, will not follow the footsteps of Congress, which were dillydallying on the issue of granting ST status to six communities for several years.
However, the BJP government after coming to power proved it wrong. Seven years later many people of these six groups feel apologetic and betrayed.
Except for making promises from time to time, the BJP government has not done much in this respect. Ahead of the 2016 Assam Assembly elections as well, the saffron party threw its weight behind the demand.
In its vision document, the party had said that if voted to power, it would work in “close co-operation with the central government towards providing ST status to the six communities in a strict time-bound manner”.
During the peak of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest in Assam in 2019, the Central government had ordered the Assam government to form a group of ministers (GoM).
Sarbananda Sonowal government subsequently formed the GoM headed by finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in January 2020 to suggest measures to ensure ST status to the new groups without affecting the interests of the existing groups. The group had said that it would submit its report in October 2020 but it is yet to submit its final findings.
Many of the six groups now feel the Centre had ordered the formation of the GoM just to diffuse the anger of the people against the BJP government for bringing the CAA.
And now, with the Assembly elections is less than a month away, top BJP leaders are making frequent trips to Assam with an eye to retain power in the state.
In the last one month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited the state three times and addressed several huge election rallies.
Modi in his addressees highlighted the ‘speedy development taking place’ in the state but remained silent on several key issues including according ST status to six ethnic tribes.
Interestingly most of the leaders of the six communities–who were quite vocal in support of their ST status demand– have also now maintained a stoic silence. There are allegations that with the Assembly elections in the state round the corner, many of them have compromised with the BJP.
It may be mentioned that at least three key leaders—Arunjyoti Moran of Moran Students Union, Kajol Gohain, former general secretary of All Assam Mottock Sanmilan and former All Assam Tea Tribes Students Association (AATSA) general secretary Paban Bedia, who were vocal against the BJP government for failing to fulfill their promises of granting ST status to the six ethnic tribes, have recently joined hands with the saffron party.