At least 17 Adivasi organisations in Assam will block national highways at several places on Wednesday in support of their demand for ST status and dialogue with five militant groups that are in ceasefire since 2012.
Members of the organisations, under the banner of the Adivasi National Convention, will block the highways for five hours from 7am at Karigaon and Gossaigaon in Kokrajhar, Bahalpur in Dhubri, Samthaibari in Chirang, Kadamtol in Baksa, Orang in Darrang and Rangajan in Golaghat district.
The organisations are demanding that they be called “Adivasis” and not “tea tribe community” and given land rights for those living in the forest areas under the Traditional Forest Dwellers’ Act.
Giving pattas (land deeds) to landless tea garden workers is another important demand.
“The Adivasis had a huge contribution in our freedom struggle, but the Centre and the Assam government are least bothered to solve our problems. The government is delaying the process of granting ST status and solving the issues raised by the groups that laid down arms following an appeal from the Centre in 2012. We had only one round of talks at the political level on April 24 this year, but no decision could be reached on ST status and rehabilitation of more than 1,200 members of the five groups which are in ceasefire,” the secretary of the Convention, Birsing Munda, said on Sunday.
Munda was the “commander-in-chief” of the Birsa Commando Force, one of the Adivasi outfits in ceasefire. The Adivasi Cobra Military of Assam, Adivasi People’s Army, All Adivasi National Liberation Army and the Santhal Tiger Force are the other outfits who are in ceasefire.
“Political parties promise us ST status before every election as 80 lakh Adivasis are deciding factors in many constituencies, but they forget us after winning the polls. The BJP, too, had promised a lot before the 2014 general elections and the 2016 Assembly polls, but our demands remained unfulfilled. Workers in the tea gardens get a daily wage of only Rs 137. They do not have land rights. Those living in the forest areas are evicted frequently and often become soft targets of other militant groups,” Munda said.
A meeting of the Convention held in Tezpur on Sunday decided to organise Adivasi Jatiya Mahasabha in January-February in which intellectuals and prominent citizens of the community will participate.