Syllabus subtopic: Security Challenges and their Management in Border Areas
Prelims and Mains focus: about the issue and concerns raised by Karbis; about Bodo Accord; about CAA; Assam Accord
News: An Assam-based insurgent group of Karbis, which signed a ceasefire agreement with the Centre, has demanded that the Bodos in the hill areas not be given the Scheduled Tribe status as it will affect the “identity of the Karbis”.
- The Home Ministry, the Assam government and Bodo groups signed the pact on January 27 to redraw and rename the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD), spread over Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri districts.
- Under the agreement, the Bodos in the hills will be given the Scheduled Hill Tribe status and villages dominated by the Bodos outside the BTAD will be included and those with non-Bodos excluded.
- The Bodos, an ethnic group in Assam, had been demanding a separate State since 1972, and are recognised as a Scheduled Tribe (Plain).
Tribal composition in Assam
In Assam, there are 14 recognised Plain Tribe communities, 15 Hills Tribe communities and 16 Scheduled Caste communities.
Why are Karbis against the move?
- After the conclusion of the latest Bodo pact, the Karbi Longri and North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF), a militant group that signed a ceasefire pact with the Centre in 2009, has said a “political settlement” should be reached soon.
- The identity of Karbis will come under threat if Bodos who live in the hill areas along with Karbis are also given a Scheduled Hill Tribe status.
- The Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council has 26 seats, and the elections to the councils are due in 2022. It is one of the oldest councils in existence since 1951. Nagaland and Mizoram that were autonomous councils initially became States years ago; only Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao remain. Karbis want a ST status for the entire region so that non-tribals will not be able to contest in the elections. The non-tribals comprise 46% of the 9.6 lakh population of the council. According to Karbis, the Bodos could not have a separate reservation in hills and plains.
- After the peace accord with all Bodo groups, the Centre is at a very advanced stage of sealing a peace deal with other key militant groups, including the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the Karbi insurgent group.
- But, with the Assembly election in Assam due in April-May next year, the final announcements could be tailored to suit the ruling BJP electorally. The BJP is expected to do well in the 15 Assembly constituencies in the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley because of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). The recent Bodo peace deal will give the ruling party an edge in 12 seats under the BTAD. Similarly, a Karbi peace deal will give the party an edge in the 5 seats in the hill districts.
Citizenship Amendment Act’s applicability in Assam
There are 33 districts in Assam, and seven have been exempted from the CAA as they fall in the areas protected by the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The exempted districts comprise three autonomous district councils: BTAD, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao.