At a time when India is struggling with terrorist activities and separatist movements, the resentment showed by the Adivasis of Assam by their destructive activities has created new concerns for the home departments of the states. The blast on the Rajdhani Express from Guwahati to New Delhi that took place on 14 December in Chungajan in Golaghat district of Assam, shows the strong feeling of hatred in the minds of the Adivasis.
Dilip Beg, the leader of the Adivasi National Liberation Army (ANLA), had informed reporters by telephone and accepted the responsibility of the blasts which killed five people and injured several others. Earlier this month, it had also planned a blast in the Kamrup Express. The security arrangements and mechanisms existing in the Indian Railways need to be revisited but more importantly, it is necessary to unearth the reason for the resentment of the Adivasis.
The ANLA is basically interested in ensuring the status of Scheduled Tribe for the Adivasis of Assam which has not been granted to them till date. The ANLA also address the grievances of the plantation workers in the state who are not satisfied with the conditions of work in the tea gardens.
The ANLA claims that most of the backward tribes who are presently working in the tea plantations in Assam had inherited the slavery of their parents who were brought in by the British under colonial rule. The fact that a number of Adivasi activists were killed and some Adivasi women were stripped in a demonstration in November, added fuel to the fire. The entire incident gave a picture to the whole country that the Assam Government was hostile towards Adivasis. Significantly, the Centre too denied the demand of the Adivasis for being included in the list of scheduled tribes.
The ANLA leader David Tirkey, who operates from Jharkhand, has warned the state that there will be major attacks again. As Assam has neglected the Adivasi groups in respect of providing education and employment opportunities, other Adivasi groups have also created their own forces like the Adivasi Cobra Force.
Although the workers of tea plantations have free housing called lines, their food is subsidized and their salaries are protected, the major concern is that the bulk of the work force is addicted to alcohol, they have substandard health insurance and medical facilities, their children hardly get any education and there is exploitation of the labour force. In fact, tea production is not that profit-making a pursuit these days according to recent studies and the workers basically face the reaction of managers who in turn always face the dissatisfaction of the owners.
The remedies that can be recommended come under two heads. In respect of the Adivasis who are working in the tea plantations, better standard of living provided by the employers can neutralise the resentment. The major tea plantations at one point of time had strong environmental concerns, as malaria and other diseases spread in these places and employers were required to take care of their workers. Additionally, the children of the plantation workers should be provided better education and proper food.
The second course of action involves the state government that has to engage in dialogue with local Adivasi leaders, and also student representatives and give them assurances about jobs and opportunities in the state. If the state government calls them tea tribes, then this will only increase their resentment on not getting the status of scheduled tribe. Instead they should not be categorised as such and the government has to treat them on par with other sections of the society. If these tribes can be handled with care and tact by the central and state governments, their resentments can be controlled and the people can be saved from the disruptive activities which are the outbursts of inherent neglect of these sections of society.