For Satyanarain Kumhar (65),the Karbi hills of central Assam have been home for over four decades now. Ten years after he left Bihars Siwan district,his brothers Madan and Jaylal retraced his journey to take to sugarcane cultivation here.
But they cannot own land here. In fact,no outsider or non-tribal can own land in districts and states of the Northeast that come under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. In Assam,the two hill districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hillswhich comprise the Autonomous Lok Sabha constituencyfall under this category.
The three of us have been cultivating sugarcane in ten bighas of land for so many years now. We have voting rights,but cannot purchase land. We need more land as our families are expanding, said Satyanarain,one of the 100-plus Bihari families living in Bordolong village under Kheroni police station.
Many of the Hindi-speaking settlers in the region,however,were left dejected on Wednesday when BJP leader L K Advani launched the election campaign for the AGP-BJP combine in Assam in Kheroni. We waited eagerly to hear something about our plight,but he disappointed us, said Surajbhan Chauhan of Mailubasti village,where most of the Hindi-speaking migrants are from Azamgarh,Balia,Gazipur,Gorakhpur and other districts of Uttar Pradesh. That a Hindi-speaking leader came to this remote area to seek votes is the only consolation for us, added Jitendra Chauhan (19),who works as a tailor in Kheroni Tiniali.
Karbi Anglong,like the twin Upper Assam industrial districts of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh,has been in the news for the past five or six years when militant outfitsincluding the ULFAlaunched several attacks on Hindi-speaking migrants,killing over 200 people.
There are roughly 40,000 Hindi-speaking voters in the autonomous constituency. And together with about 50,000 Bengalis and about 45,000 Assamese-speaking non-tribals,parties are recognising that they can merge as a deciding factor this election. This is a peculiar election in the hill districts. With the AGP and BJP coming together,our candidate is definitely going to defeat the Congress easily, claimed Arun Terang,district BJP chief. Party members,however,are also surprised that Advani did not address the concerns of these migrants. How can he do that? Land ownership is a major problem for all,including tribals and non-tribals, said Jagmohan Bordoloi,district vice-president of the BJP.
The Congress,which is in power in the Autonomous District Council here,has introduced a dangerous land policy in July 2007 that even prevents tribals from buying or selling land, pointed out Kulendra Daulagupu,the BJP candidate here,adding that the BJP would take up the issue.