Shillong, Dec 2 (UNI) In a softening of stand, Union Tribal Affairs Minister P R Kyndiah said today that the Centre was open to the demand for the inclusion of more communities in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list in Assam.
''As far as I am concerned, the matter is not a closed chapter.
However, a time frame to fulfil the demands cannot be given,'' Mr Kyndiah said.
Mr Kyndiah's statement assumed significance in the backdrop of Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil informing Parliament that the Registrar General of India (RGI) was not in favour of granting ST status to the tea tribes of Assam.
''The door to accord ST status to the tea tribes - Adivasi, Koch Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Moran, Motok and Chutia - of Assam is still open,'' Mr Kyndiah told UNI here.
The minister, however, made it clear that no fixed time frame could be stipulated to meet the demands of the six ethnic communities in Assam.
''The matter has to go through lots of procedures owing to its sensitive nature. It needs recommendations from the state government, RGI, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and so on,'' the minister said.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi decided to take up the matter with the UPA government in New Delhi after the RGI rejected the state government's proposal to grant ST status to the tea tribes.
Meanwhile, the six communities, whose population is estimated to be around 40 lakh, threatened to form a common platform to launch joint agitation to press their demand for ST status.
The All Assam Bengali Parishad (AABP) also urged the UPA and state government to grant ST status to the tea tribes of Assam.
AABP chief convenor Chitto Pal said the Centre and state government should grant ST status to the tea adivasis in order to maintain peace in the state.
''If their demands are not met, the tea adivasis would go in for mass struggle from December 15, which can lead to violence in at least five districts of Assam - Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Tinsukia, Golaghat and Sonitpur - as these districts are dominated by the tribes,'' Mr Pal warned.