Assam govt faces 'stiff' opposition in Karbi Anglong over proposed HAD-BTR merger
By Vivian Rongpi
The Convening Committee for Unification (CCU) has called for a 10-hour bandh across Karbi Anglong on February 13 in protest against the proposed merger of Hill Area Development (HAD) department and Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) in Assam.
In a press conference held here on Friday at the office of the District Press Club of Karbi Anglong (DPCKA), the leaders of the CCU, Saising Rongpi, Kharsing Teron and Rabindra Rongpi said that the bandh will be effective from 5 AM to 3 PM on Saturday.
The CCU said that Cabinet Minister Chandan Mohan Patowary had posted on social media about the development and termed it to be the 'cabinet's best decision'.
"According to the announcement, now the HAD department will be replaced by the Sixth Schedule Area Department. The HAD department was meant for Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao Districts. But now BTR will be merged with the department which was meant for us," Chief Convenor of CCU, Saising Rongpi said.
Condemning the government's decision, Rongpi said, "We, the CCU do not agree with this. All the organisations in the CCU will have a discussion. Until and unless the decision is rolled back, we will fight.”
Meanwhile, the Karbi Anglong District Congress Committee (KADCC), in a press conference held at its office here, has also opposed the decision of the Assam government.
“It is a very unfortunate decision of the BJP-led government of Assam to turn the Hills Area Department (HAD) into a general department. This should not be done, we oppose it. The establishment should be as it was (to provide more) opportunities to the hill areas," KADCC Vice President Ratan Engti said.
Furthermore, he alleged that the policy of the BJP to take over the nation is steadily taking shape.
"The demolishing of the HAD is a step in the process. The BJP-RSS policy of ‘One Nation, One Religion, One Culture’ is steadily being implemented. We will not allow this. We have launched the ‘Assam Bachao’ (campaign) to fight this," Engti added.
The KADCC has also extended its support to the 10-hour bandh called by CCU on Saturday, Feb 13.
Supporting the bandh, Karbi Students' Association (KSA) president Thang Sing Timung said, “They (CCU) are not doing it for themselves. It is for the district; so we will cooperate with them in every possible way.”
Similarly, the Karbi Students and Youth Council (KSYC), in a press conference at its office here, has termed the decision of the government to merge the two departments as a "political conspiracy" to obliterate the hills area from the political and administrative history of Assam.
"It is politically intended to destabilise development of these particular hill areas of Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong, and Dima Hasao. It reflects the anti-Karbi, anti-hill tribes attitude of the Assamese leaders and we condemn it in the strongest terms," KSYC General Secretary Bipul Tisso said.
The student body has also demanded the resignation of HAD Minister Sum Ronghang from the cabinet.
"The MLAs of the hill districts, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and NC Hills Autonomous Council should appeal to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal not to do away with the HAD," Tisso said.
The Karbi Farmers Association (KFA), led by President Avinash Ronghang, has also opposed the renaming of HAD as Sixth Schedule Area Development Department as "it cannot compare the Sixth Schedule function of the Bodoland with that of hill districts of Assam."
The KFA opined that in 1969 when Meghalaya was separated from Assam, Karbi Anglong remained with Assam.
"At that time, Deputy Chief Minister was Satra Sing Teron from the Karbi community. There was the Tribal Area Department (TAD), which was later changed to Hills Area Department (HAD). Now it is being renamed as Sixth Schedule Area Development Department. The bill, which was passed in the State Assembly yesterday (Feb 11), should be revoked," Ronghang said.
The KFA has threatened to launch an agitation if the Sarbananda Sonowal-led government fails to revoke its decision.
(Edited by Ibankyntiew Mawrie)