Normal life in several districts of lower Assam was severely affected on Wednesday following a 24-hour bandh called by the All Koch-Rajbangshi Students’ Union (AKRSU) complaining of delay in granting Scheduled Tribe status for the Koch-Rajbangshi community by the central government despite repeated promises.
While AKRSU supporters blocked roads and forced shops and establishments to shut down, hundreds of trucks carrying essential commodities and other goods to Assam and the Northeastern region were stranded at the Assam-West Bengal inter-state gate at Srirampur. A few trucks and other vehicles were damaged when bandh supporters either set them on fire or pelted stones for allegedly violating the bandh.
“While the BJP had during the 2014 Lok Sabha election promised to grant us ST status within six months of coming to power, they took our votes with the same promise during the Assam assembly elections in 2016. We have been repeatedly cheated,” an AKRSU spokesman said in Bongaigaon. The AKRSU would intensify its agitation if the government failed to send a positive response soon, he warned.
Local reports said while the bandh was total in Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Barpeta districts, normal life was partially affected in Goalpara, Chirang, Nalbari, Baska, Darrang and Udalguri. Bandh supporters burnt effigies of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal at several places. A number of bandh supporters were also arrested in different districts.
The proposal for granting Scheduled Tribe status to six communities of Assam, including the Koch-Rajbangshis, has been pending with the Centre for the past several years.