Guwahati: More than 2.50 lakh Gorkhas who have been living in four districts of Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR), have demanded rights on the lands they occupied.
Prior to Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in 2003, the people belonging to the Gorkha community had land documents. But after the setting up of BTC, the area was declared a Sixth Schedule area due to which the Gorkhas lost their land rights.
The government replaced the Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC) with BTC, which was set up in 1995 following a peace agreement signed by Bodoland Liberation Tiger (BLT) militants with the Centre and the state governments on February 10, 2003.
The BTC was renamed as Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) in the aftermath of the signing of the third Bodo peace Accord signed by the Centre and the state governments with leaders of All Bodo Students Union (ABSU), United Bodo People’s Organisation (UBPO) and four factions of National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) on January 27, 2020.
On July 9, 2021, the Assam government declared Gorkhas living in the tribal belts and blocks in the BTR a protected class. It was believed that the move will make it easier for the Gorkha community to buy, sell and transfer land in the four districts — Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri.
Under the provisions of chapter X of Assam Land and Revenue Regulation, 1886, the Assam government approved to include Gorkhas as a protected class in the tribal belts and blocks in the districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri who were residing there before 2003, that is, when the districts came under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
There are around 25 lakh Gorkhas in Assam, of whom about 2.50 lakh reside in the BTR, most of whom migrated to Assam during British rule.
The 2003 cut-off year would ensure no “newcomers” could avail of the benefit extended to the permanent residents of Assam by claiming to belong to the Gorkha community.
Two years have passed, and there is no implementation of this cabinet decision. “There is no notification issued by the BTC administration following the cabinet decision of the Assam government,” said Hemanta Sharma, general secretary, BTC Gorkha Students Union.
“Our forefathers have land documents. But we can’t transfer (batowary) the land to our names due to the restrictions,” Sharma said.
The situation has compelled us to raise voice gainst the BTC administration.
On December 7, 2022, all the activists of BTC Gorkha Students Union gathered at Kokrajhar to observe “Jan Bhela” to register their protest against the inaction from BTA authorities.
On December 21, 2022, the protestors organised another programme “Gana Hunkar” at Dhansiri Ghat in Udalguri district to voice against the BTC.
On December 31, 2022, the protestors observed “Gorkha Garjjan” at Bagsa.
On January 16, 2023 the organization observed “Gorka Ranadinka” in Chirang district.
Finally, on February 2, 2023, the protestors took out a “jor samadal” from Gorkha Bhawan to the DC office and submitted a memorandum to the deputy commissioner of Udalguri in this regard.
“Next programme will be held on March 27 in Kokrajhar where all members of our branch and district units will gather to protest against inaction from the BTC administration,” Sharma also said.
Demand for recognition as indigenous community
In addition to the movement for land rights, Gorkhas have been constantly fighting for getting indigenous status in Assam.
There were several rounds of talks between the Assam government and the Gorkha Autonomous Council Demand Committee (GACDC) in 2017, the last round was held on February 21, 2017.
“But the final round of talks is yet to be convened despite our repeated reminders,” said Harka Bahadur Chetry, president, GACDC.
The GACDC also demand a satellite autonomous council for Gorkhas in the state.
In a memorandum on November 2, 2020, to then chief secretary Jishnu Baruah, GACDC urged the government to the resumption of the final round of talks to resolve the issue of the “identity crisis” of the Gorkha community in the state.
“Gorkhas have been facing an identity crisis due to constant political deprivation and exploitation and unjust since independence. The community is living in a suffocating socio-political environment losing rights and privileges day by day,” Chetry said.
The GACDC has sought gazette notification ensuring that the safeguards according to Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord are also extended to Gorkha people.
The demand for the safeguards by Gorkha community further intensified with the recommendations of the high-level committee formed under the chairmanship of retired Justice Biplab Kumar Sharma by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.
The committee recommended that all Gorkhas of Assam are not indigenous Assamese people as per the definition of Assamese people.
“In its report, the high-level committee on the implementation of Clause VI of Assam Accord made it all possible effort to push Gorkhas towards the more vulnerable situation,” Chetry said.
The plight compelled the Gorkha organizations to submit their prayer not be unfair and unjust to the community that has dedicated their solemn service to strengthen the composite culture of the Assamese society on one hand and the nation-building process on the other before the authorities concerned including the immediate past,” Chetry also said.
“This situation has forced us to take another round of agitational programme ‘fast unto death’ in April this year, after the annual conference to be held in Morigaon in March,” he said.
Help sustain honest journalism.
“I appeal to all not to call us non-Assamese. We are an indigenous tribe. We have a contribution to the Assam Agitation (1979-85). Some of our youth were also martyred in this agitation,” he recalled.
“We have taken a 600-km long padayatra from Mukokselek, Jonai, Dhemaji and to Dispur from June 19 to August 5, 2016. After which then chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal called us for talks held at Brahmaputra State Guest House,” he further said.
“But there was no outcome of the talks. The government is yet to convene the final round. We urged the chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to convene the last round. But there is no response from him,” he added.
- What happens if you need to pee while you’re asleep?
- Drivers in Mizoram repair dilapidated roads
- Keeping your cool in a warming world: 8 steps to help manage eco-anxiety
- Assam: RGU celebrates International Peace Day
- Meghalaya: Drugs worth Rs 2 crore seized in Shillong
- Ziro Festival to host Israeli musicians in collaboration with Embassy of Israel