By Sanjay Borkar
Panaji, Jun 4 (IANS): Fighting for their rights for the last several years, a section of the Scheduled Tribe community of Goa has threatened to boycott the Lok Sabha election 2024, if the government fails to provide them political reservation in the state assembly.
United under the banner of the 'Mission Political Reservation for Scheduled Tribe of Goa' (MPRSTG), many ST youths have dedicated themselves to achieving the goal.
Knowing the seriousness of the issue, many non-ST politicians have also supported the movement and have drawn the attention of the government by submitting memorandums.
Speaking to IANS, MPRSTG president Joao Fernandes said that if the government fails to provide them reservation then they will be forced to boycott the Lok Sabha election. "Our demand is that we should get the political reservation before the Lok Sabha election," Fernandes said.
He said that in the past they took out rallies and tried to draw the attention of the government. "We have also met our ST MLAs, Minister and Speaker. They are also of the opinion that we should get political reservation. Hence, if the time comes to boycott the election then we will get support from all of them," he added.
According to him, there are around 1.30 lakh ST voters in Goa. "We have submitted memorandums right from the President of India to the Chief Minister of Goa. We have also met members of Parliament from other states, who belong to the ST community, and have sought their support," Fernandes said.
Last month the MPRSTG members held a meeting at Lohia Maidan in Margao and resolved to boycott the Lok Sabha election in 2024 if their demand for political reservation was not conceded by the government. The ST leaders had also held a daylong hunger strike at Lohia Maidan.
They highlighted the importance of political reservation for the STs of Goa, which the state government has failed to fulfil despite the community getting the ST status decades ago.
According to them, if the political reservation is granted, there will be four legislators in the assembly by default.
The Opposition political parties in Goa have lent their support to this movement and have raised their voice demanding political reservation.
Goa Forward Party chief and MLA Vijai Sardesai had written to the then Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju demanding reservation for the Scheduled Tribes in the Assembly.
Sardesai said that the Centre should take all necessary steps to grant reservation to the ST community.
Earlier, leaders of the ST community had met Sardesai and had asked him to raise the matter. Sardesai had raised the issue during the Assembly session.
"You are aware that while Article 330 of the Constitution of India provides for reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People, Article 332 provides for reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the states. In this context, I would like to place on record the demand of Goa's Scheduled Tribes for political reservation for them in the House of the People, and the Legislative Assembly of Goa," Sardesai stated in a letter.
"In the year 2003, three communities, namely Gawda, Kunbi and Velip, were added to the existing list of Scheduled Tribes of Goa, increasing the population of Scheduled tribes considerably, with the total tally of Scheduled Tribe communities in Goa reaching 8 per cent. As per the 2011 census, the population of Scheduled Tribes in Goa is 10.23 per cent. However, even after 20 years, they are deprived of political reservation both in the House of the People and the Legislative Assembly of the State," he stated.
Sardesai has demanded the constitution of a Delimitation Commission for the delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies in Goa.
"Send government recommendation to the Hon'ble President of India for promulgation of Ordinance in the lines of the Readjustment of Representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies (third), Ordinance, 2013," the letter stated.
It said, "Request the Election Commission of India to exercise their powers under Section I7 of the Goa, Daman and Diu, Reorganisation Act, 1987, and reserve seats for Scheduled Tribes of Goa and take all steps necessary to give political reservation for Scheduled Tribes of Goa, in the House of the People and Legislative Assembly of Goa."
The Trinamool Congress has also demanded reservation for the Scheduled Tribes in the Goa Legislative Assembly.
Trinamool Congress convener Samil Volvoikar said that his party will stand with the ST community on this issue. "In future if they stage a protest, we will give our support," Volvoikar said.
"Since the last many years this issue has been pending. The government should have heeded it and given them their right," Volvoikar said, adding that it is the constitutional right of the ST community to get reservation.
ST leader Kanta Gawade said that it is ironical that the 'adivasi samaj' is deprived of their constitutional right. The ST community has many times demanded it through various platforms, but they have only met with injustice.
Kanta Gawade said that the ST community has contributed a lot to the state and hence they should be given their right.
Gawade said that all governments in the last two decades failed to give rights to the ST community. "Right from MLAs to the President of India, ST community have given memorandum to all. But nobody has paid heed to this issue," he said.
Leader of Opposition Yuri Alemao has also demanded political reservation for the ST community and had raised the issue during the last assembly session.
Currently there are four ST MLAs in the Assembly.