Politics

Karbi Youth in Assam’s Diphu Stage Nude Protest

Protesters demand an updated voters’ list as per the sixth schedule of the constitution before the next autonomous council polls are held.

A TV grab of the protest in Diphu.

A TV grab of the protest in Diphu.

New Delhi: Hundreds of Karbi young men belonging to as many as 24 student and civil society organisations carried out a nude rally through the Diphu town of Assam on April 21, demanding an updated voters’ list for the Karbi Anglong district as per the sixth schedule of the constitution. They demanded that the coming elections to the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC), which administers the district, be held after a new voters’ list is put in place.

The KAAC is run by the BJP. Though the council elections, held every five years, were due on January 13, state governor Banwarilal Purohit used his powers to extend the current council’s term by six months. As per a state government statement in January, the state election commission, which conducts the polls, felt it would not be “practicable” to hold the elections before January 13 due to “unavoidable circumstances arising out of publication of the electoral roll on December 2016”.

On April 21, in a press note, the protesters said the nude rally was organised because “The rules for the conduct of council elections have not yet been made and the obsolete and the defective rules of 1951 are still used by the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council as well as the state government.”

It said, “The non tribal emigrants have taken away political power of the scheduled tribes guaranteed by the constitution of India. So the scheduled tribes who were covered with a protective law are now politically naked. Hence, this naked demonstration.”

On March 29, these organisations carried out yet another massive rally, dressed in their traditional clothes, protesting the non-fulfilment of the same demand. In a memorandum submitted to the head of the KAAC, Tuliram Ronghang, the protesters reminded him of the November 15, 2016, deadline they gave to the council “for revision and correction of the voters list”.

The organisations demanded that the process of framing and passing the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Districts (Representation of People in Autonomous Council) Act, 2017 and the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Districts (Representation of People in Autonomous Council) Rules, 2017 must begin by April 3, 2017 and end before the KAAC election process starts or by April 29, 2017, whichever is earlier.

The organisations then said: “If the KAAC election is held without passing Election Act and Rules under Paragraph-2, Sub-Paragraph 7 of the Sixth Schedule and if name of illegitimate persons are not deleted from voter lists, the elections and voter lists will be illegal and unconstitutional and shall be liable to be quashed.”

Since their demands were not fulfilled, these organisations called for a 36-hour bandh in the district on April 10.

The Karbi Anglong District Council was constituted in June 1952, with its headquarters in Diphu, as per the sixth schedule of the constitution. Since June 1970, many development departments of the state government functioning in the state’s Karbi Anglong district were placed under the council. However, the norms of the sixth schedule were regularly violated by the district council and the state government.

After a student movement against these violations, a memorandum of understanding was signed by the state government with the leaders of the movement in April 1995. Since then, the Karbi Anglong District Council has become the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC). After the change, as many as 30 other departments of the state government operating in the district were placed under it. The KAAC consists of 30 members, 26 of whom are elected and four nominated, to provide representation to minorities who comprise a considerable proportion of the total population of the district.

However, the issue of a “correct” voters’ list is still a contentious issue.