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PRESS RELEASE: ILAI asks Assam Govt not to destroy the tribal communities by granting ST status to non-tribal communities

New Delhi: Ahead of the meeting of the Group of Ministers headed by Shri Himanta Biswa Sharma, Hon’ble Finance Minister of Assam, to discuss the issue of granting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to six communities at 11 am on 8 October 2020, the Indigenous Lawyers Association of India (ILAI) called upon the Government of Assam not to destroy the tribal communities of Assam by granting ST status to the non-tribal communities in the state. The Assam Government has been proposing granting of ST status to six communities namely Koch Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Chutia, Matak, Moran and Tea Tribes.

“There are a number of communities among the six communities who have never been considered as “Tribes” by any government or anthropological study and they do not possess any characteristics of the tribals. Hence, the Assam government’s proposed inclusion of some socio-economically advanced and populous communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes (STs) is malafide and it shall eliminate the very concept of “tribals” in India,” stated Mr Dilip Kanti Chakma, President, Indigenous Lawyers Association of India.

“Some of these communities are identified as Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and there is no provision in law to transport from OBC to ST. While the OBC categorization is based on caste, the STs are totally on different footings”- further stated Mr Dilip Kanti Chakma.

If these communities are included in the list of the STs, the social and educational well-being and political representation from Gram Sabha to the Lok Sabha of the existing STs of Assam shall definitely be affected and the already marginalized Scheduled Tribes shall be further marginalized.

The stubbornness of the Government of Assam and the Government of India to go ahead with the proposal of granting ST status to some ineligible communities despite strong opposition from the Coordination Committee of the Tribal Organizations of Assam is an unhealthy sign and violates the solemn assurances given by India to the United Nations to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples before adopting and implementing any legislative measures that can affect the indigenous peoples as provided under Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples which was adopted by General Assembly on 13 September 2007 with the support of India, the ILAI said in a statement released to the media. [Ends]

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