Andhra tribals protest move to include Boyas and Valmikis in ST list
On Friday, tribals in Alluri Sitharama Raju district, Parvathipuram Manyam, Visakhapatnam and other agency areas (forest areas) of West Godavari and East Godavari districts observed a complete shutdown over the government’s decision
The latest decision of the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh proposing to include Boya, Valmiki and Bentu Oriya communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes has triggered a major unrest among the Adivasis in the state.
On Friday, tribals in Alluri Sitharama Raju district, Parvathipuram Manyam, Visakhapatnam and other agency areas (forest areas) of West Godavari and East Godavari districts observed a complete shutdown over the government’s decision.
The tribal groups under the auspices of the Adivasi Joint Action Committee (AJAC) blocked vehicles and ambulances in these areas. They held up traffic for several hours, paralysing the public transport into the interior areas of these districts.
Shops remained closed as trade and business organizations expressed their solidarity with the Adivasis. Even the educational institutions remained closed. The bandh affected the tourist operations as major tourist spots like Araku Valley and Borra Caves were shut down.
The police made elaborate security arrangements to prevent untoward incidents. TDP and other political parties participated in the agency bandh. “The inclusion of Boyas, Valmiki and Bentu Oriyas into the ST list will affect the reservations of the real tribals and take away their rights,” Andhra Pradesh Adivasi Congress chairperson Pachipenta Santha Kumari said.
On March 24, the state assembly adopted a unanimous resolution requesting the Centre to include the Boya and Valmiki communities and their sub-group Bentu Oriyas under the Scheduled Tribes category and extend reservations to them accordingly.
At present, Boya and Valmikis belong to the Backward Classes (A) category in Andhra Pradesh. Constituting nearly 3.4 per cent of the total population of the state which is around 52.8 million, thee communities are very influential in Rayalaseema region, predominantly located in Anantapur and Kurnool districts and partly in Kadapa and Chittoor, besides in certain pockets of Guntur district.
These communities have been asking for their inclusion in the ST list, as they were originally forest dwellers. However, the previous governments have not taken any decision due to resistance from the Adivasi groups.
After Jagan came to power in May 2019, he appointed a One-Man Commission (OMC) headed by retired IAS officer I Samuel Anand Kumar to study the issues faced by Bento Oriya, Valmiki and Boya communities for the purpose of including them in the list of Scheduled Tribes.
Jagan told the assembly that the one-man Commission, which studied the social and economic conditions of the Boyas in the four districts recommended their inclusion in the STs. Even the ST Commission agreed with this assessment, he said.
He allayed the apprehensions of the Adivasis that the inclusion of the Boya/Valmiki community, who are predominant in Kurnool, Kadapa, Anantapur and Chittoor districts in the list of STs would not affect the STs living in the forest areas in the state.
“It won’t reduce the quota of the STs of the forest areas in government jobs or educational institutions as the zoning system is in force as per the six-point formula. It may have a negligible impact on the Group-1 jobs which come under the non-zoning category,” he said.
AJAC president K Dharma Rao, however, said the decision would be detrimental to the interests of the most backward tribes.
“Boyas and Valmikis are socially and economically developed communities. They cannot be equated with the Adivasis, who have been neglected for centuries,” Santha Kumari said.
She alleged that the Jagan government has taken the decision only to gain political mileage in the next elections. “This will also result in the non-tribals occupying the forest lands and take away the rights of the Adivasis,” she said.
A senior Telugu Desam Party leader from the Boya community, who preferred anonymity, said the hurried decision of the Jagan government was taken only with an eye on the elections. “Instead of washing away his hands by adopting a resolution, the chief minister should have brought pressure on the Centre to merge Boyas into the ST communities,” he said.