Guwahati, Dec 11 (UNI) With the panchayat polls in the offing, the tribals could hold the trumpcard for the political parties in Assam.
''We understand the aspirations of the backward class and want to give then their rights. Congress is the only party that is sincere about resolving this crisis,'' Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi stated.
From the tea tribes to Rabhas and Bodos to Koch Raj Bongshis--the state is sucked into a whirlpool on the eve of the panchayat poll.
At this moment, Moran, Muttack, Adivasis, Koch Rajbonghis and Rabhas are agitating either in favour of reservation or to assert their identity through District Councils.
''We shall not allow Congress in the tea gardens and Adivasi areas. They have betrayed us for decades,'' said Mr Justin Lakra, President of the All Assam Tribal Students Association (AATSA).
The Beltola violence last month had made the going tough for Congress, admitted state Labour Minister Prithivi Majhi, himself from tea tribe community.
''They (tea tribes) are very angry. We are pressuring the central government to give them a Schedule Caste status,'' said Mr Majhi, who has been made Chairman of a Cabinet sub-committee to look into the reservation.
''We have also formed an expert committee to look into how much the groups can deserve from the government and how much the government at this moment can actually give them,'' said the Chief Minister.
The Congress is heavily dependent on the tea tribes as their traditional ally Muslims have deserted them for the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF).
''The AUDF is now making seat arrangement with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP),'' Mr Gogoi said.
But things got complicated when on behalf of the dominant tribe Bodos, Anjali Daimary opposed reservation for the Adivasis. ''They are a migrant community and hence should not be placed under the reservation simply on technical ground.'' Her voice summed up the mood of the Bodos, who are in control of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
Union Tribal Affairs Minister P R Kyndiah initially refused reservation to Adivasis, but has since softened his stand.
But with Koch Rajbongshis demanding their own reservation in the line with the Bodos, things have become difficult for Congress. More so after their leader Pradeep Ray yesterday blamed the Congress for towing the Bodo line.
If that was not enough the Rabhas of South Assam have been attacking the government infrastructure and demanding that panchayat poll should not be held in their area as they were governed under their own autonomous council.
In Upper Assam, Moran and Muttucks have been attacking oil installations for not granting them reservations.
The question of identity had reduced Assam to a battle ground of smaller tribes and majorities bringing a halt all developmental work, said writer Mahim Bora at Nagaon, summing up the general mood of the ordinary people of Assam.