Internally Displaced Koch-Rajbanshis of Assam- A Status Report 

 IDP girlAnuj Choudhury: Conflict has been the main cause of mass displacement of population in Assam. Among the internally displaced persons (IDPs) the population that has received no attention in Assam is the indigenous Koch-Rajbanshis. At the peak of Bodo movement for separate homeland in the 1980’s the first community that was targeted, looted, killed and displaced, with the intend of ethnic-cleansing were the Koch-Rajbanshis. From my visit to the field it was reported that around 60 people belonging to the Koch-Rajbanshi community were brutally massacred by the Bodo militants. Haris Pathak (38 years) can still recall the heinous crime he saw when he was a child. He narrates one of the incident where a poor old Koch-Rajbanshi lady, who used to live her life by selling betel leaf, unable to pay ransom to the militants, was tutored, the militants stabbed her eye-balls mercilessly with sharp weapon and made her blind before killing her. With the rising violence, in the year 1989 from the northern part of Bongaigaon (now Chirang) district, about 220 Koch-Rajbanshi families from 43 villages fled from their homes leaving behind their valuable property like land, cattle, crops, etc and took shelter in various designated camps to escape the carnage unleashed by Bodo armed militants.

After being displaced, the victims for a year were kept in various camps in Bongaigaon district. They were first made to settle in Dolaigaon Lower Primary School and then from there they were shifted to North Boitamari High School, from Boitamari High School they were again shifted to Dangtola Lower Primary School and then to Kukurmari, where they stayed in make-shift tents.  After a year, after being made to shift different places, in the year 1990 finally they were made to settle in Phoolkumari, Babunitila-I, Babunitila-II and Pochim Bhadragaon relief camps in Bidyapur in Bongaigaon. As a relief material the displaced only received a 5-6 meter plastic sheet and Rs. 2,500 per family. In these relief camps there are also few Rabha, Sutradhar, Nath and Kalita families who have also been victims of mass killings of the Bodo movement.

25 years have passed till now; these families are still living in these relief camps in most pathetic conditions.  Once these people who were proud farmers and tilled their own ancestral land have been pushed to extreme poverty and are fighting for their basic survival. Also, due to river bank erosion the land allotted for Babunitila-II relief camp is also no more. The river water has washed away this land. The 200 families that were taking shelter in this relief camp have moved to other camps and some have settled in the outskirts of Bongaigaon district on barren lands. The locations where they have settled are in Sanyasi Pahar, Khokorpur, Karigaon, etc.

Present Situation of the IDPs: 

The inmates are having a hard time leaving in these camps. The civil society organizations, student unions and the local administration have completely neglected this population. Majority of the population works as daily wage laborers for their income. The condition in the relief camp is so degrading and poverty ridden that the livelihood of many families is also dependent on selling of country liquor. There are also families in the relief camp where prostitution has become their means of survival.

The government has allotted 332 bigha of land for the Phoolkumari relief camp inmates but till today none of the displaced has received any land patta from the concerned authorities. This has also led to other communities who are in majority in that area, mainly the Muslims, forcefully occupying the relief camp’s land. Similar is also the case with Bamunitila Relief Camp where Muslims have occupied a major portion of the relief camp’s land. Moreover, the inmates themselves have sold lands to other communities at very cheap rates due to poverty. The land which current price would be around Rs. 1.5 lakhs per bigha, the inmates have sold it for just Rs. 10,000.

At present the main concern among the inmates has been to legalize these lands.

There is also problem of high dropouts and illiteracy in the village. The village school is not functioning properly as the teachers don’t turn up regularly. Same is the condition with the anganwadi also. Moreover, anganwadi workers and teachers have been employed from outside the village which is against the rule.

Phoolkumari, Babunitila and Bhadragaon have been brought under the ambit of revenue village and the inmates got their voting rights in 1997. But this population has mainly been seen as second class citizens and only used as vote banks. Every time before the elections they are promised many things by the leaders but after the elections none of the promises are fulfilled and the leaders only turn up after five years again. MGNREGA is functioning in the village but none of the inmate of the relief camps has got job cards. However, recently few families have received Rs. 10,000 under Indira Awaz Yojana to build houses and the families have BPL card and are beneficiaries of the Public Distribution System.

(Prepared in March 13, 2015)

CENTRE-STATE MISLEADING KOCH-RAJBONGSHI’S ON S.T ISSUE

Guwahati, 05.11.2016: The President of India had promulgated the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Ordinance on 27th January, 1996, which was re-promulgated three times, granting the Koch-Rajbongshi community of Assam, S.T(P) status for one year. After 20 years of dilly-dallying by the Central and State Govt., holding numerous talk’s right up to the level of the Union Home Minister, the State Govt. has now appointed a senior Police Officer as a Mediator to liaise with the organizations demanding S.T status, which is nothing but a big farce and an insult to the Koch-Rajbongshi community. Nothing further needs to be done in regard to the Scheduling of the Koch-Rajbongshi community, other than to introduce the Bill in the Parliament for voting, for the following among other reasons:

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PIL to remove Encroachment from Chilarai Park at North Guwahati”

Guwahati, 05.02.2018: A Public Interest Litigation has been filed before the Hon’ble Gauhati High Court by senior and leading citizens of Guwahati, for the removal of encroachment from Chilarai Park at Amingaon, North Guwahati, including protection and upkeep of the said park premises, wherein an 18 ft. tall bronze statue of Biswa Mahabir Chilarai is also present.

  Chilarai Park was built around 1992 in memory of legendary Koch General and Dewan (Prime Minister) Sukladhwaj, popularly known as ‘Chilarai’, who is respected and revered by the people of Assam and beyond, not only for his legendary military exploits but also for – (i) rebuilding the Kamakhya temple in 1565 A.D, which was supposedly destroyed by Kalapahar; (ii) for giving protection and patronage to Srimanta Sankardev, for which he could start a social reformation movement and a renaissance of literature in the region, (iii) for building roads under his leadership from Koch Beehar to Lakhimpur and from Guwahati to Silchar over which State and National Highways have now come up.

Therefore, Chilarai Park not only holds great historical significance to the people of Assam, but also a landmark of North Guwahati, which attracts tourists and locals alike. The resident’s of Greater Guwahati requires such public and green spaces where they can rewind and refresh from the grind of city life. It is particularly important for children to play under the open sky in such public parks, for their overall growth.

  The petitioners came to learn from media reports and through investigation that the Assam Police (Traffic Branch), Kamrup district have illegally encroached and set up an Outpost inside the Chilarai Park premises, including encroachment by an Auto stand. The park is also not properly maintained by the district administration and has turned into a den of anti-social elements. Many organizations including the petitioners had earlier submitted memorandum with the D.C Kamrup rural district among others, including holding meetings, but to no avail.

Being aggrieved the petitioners, namely – (i) Sri. Atul Chandra Talukdar, retired HoD, Political Science, Arunachal University, (ii) Sri. Jogeswar Bora, retired Judge of the Designated Court, Assam, (iii) Sri. Nalini Ranjan Ray, senior officer of State Bank of India and (iv) Sri. Arup Jyoti Das, writer and Director of CKRSD, have filed the present PIL praying for removal of encroachment and upkeep of Chilarai Park and the Hon’ble Gauhati High Court has admitted the PIL and issued notice to Government of Assam. Advocate Santanu Borthakur and Vikram Rajkhowa appeared for the petitioners.

Arup Jyoti Das

Director, CKRSD

CKRSD Challenges Centre’s S.T Modalities

Guwahati, 23.11.2017: The Centre for Koch Rajbanshi Studies and Development (CKRSD) has recently filed a Writ Petition before Hon’ble Gauhati High Court challenging the decision of the Central Government to apply the Modalities of 1999 and modified Modalities of 2002 for deciding the claims of the Koch-Rajbongshi community for inclusion in the S.T (Plains) lists of Assam, since the entire exercise to grant S.T (Plains) status to the Koch-Rajbongshi community was carried out during the period 1994-1997 as per the Modalities prevalent at that time, which is much before the new Modalities of 1999 and 2002.

The Hon’ble Gauhati High Court after hearing the parties has admitted the Writ Petition and issued notice to – Secretary to Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Secretary to Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Registrar General of India, Chief Secretary to Govt. of Assam, Secretary to WPTBC and the Director of Tribal Research Institute, Govt. of Assam.

It is submitted by CKRSD that based on the positive report of Tribal Research Institute, Govt. of Assam and ‘No Objection’ from Registrar General of India, the Union Govt. had introduced the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order Amendment Bill, 1996, in the Lok Sabha, and the matter was also referred to the Select Committee which also recommended for the inclusion of the Koch-Rajbongshi community in S.T (Plains) lists of Assam. Meanwhile, President of India promulgated the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Ordinance, 1996 (9 of 1996) which was re-promulgated three times granting S.T (Plains) status to the Koch-Rajbongshi community for one entire year.

Before the Assam Assembly Election of 2016, many senior BJP leaders had stated that if BJP comes to power they will grant S.T (Plains) status to the Koch-Rajbongshi community, but now both the BJP government at the Centre and the State are shying away. CKRSD questions if it was another Jumla from the ruling party? The Koch-Rajbongshi people of Assam had already fulfilled and cleared all the criteria’s/ modalities prevalent during the period 1994-1997, so why do we need to prove again and again. If we were good to be granted S.T(P) status by none other than the President of India, then we are good to be granted S.T(P) status today also.

 Vikram Rajkhowa                                          Arup Jyoti Das

Chairperson                                                      Director

Nalini Ranjan Ray joins as the Director of CKRSD

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Nalini Ranjan Ray (middle) with Vikram Rajkhowa (left) and Arup Jyoti Das (right)

Guwahati: Koch Rajbanshi scholar and social worker Nalini Ranjan Ray has joined as the new Director(honorary) of Centre for Koch Rajbanshi Studies and Development (CKRSD), a Guwahati based Institute, which work among the Koch Rajbanshi community with the primary objective to ‘preserve’ and ‘promote’ their  rich culture, history, language, belief system and  socio-political rights. Ray took over the charge from former Director Arup Jyoti Das on July 22, 2018 at CKRSD office in the presence of Vikram Rajkhowa, Chairperson of CKRSD. Mr. Ray is an Ex-Service Officer from Indian Army and at present associated with Public Sector Bank in North East Circle (India) in Senior Management Grade.  He is a native of Darjeeling District of West Bengal and currently lives in Guwahati, Assam. Ray is the author of Koch Rajbanshi and Kamatapuri the truth unveiled . His recent publication work Merger of Erstwhile Cooch Behar is a compilation of important documents and correspondences related to merger this princely state with Indian dominion of India