Why India’s tribal disquiet is a powder keg not limited to Manipur

Members of the Kurmi community blocking a rail route in West Bengal. Photo: Twitter

West Bengal’s rail and road communications with several western and southern states were paralysed for about a week last month with hundreds of trains cancelled and vehicles stranded. The disruption was due to protests by an Other Backward Class Kurmi community, which is seeking Scheduled Tribe status. The protesters blockaded railway tracks and adjacent National Highway 6, which connects Kolkata to Mumbai, at Khemasuli in Paschim Medinipur district and Kustaur station in Purulia.

Similar blockades were enforced by the community in neighbouring Jharkhand. In Odisha, Kurmis staged demonstrations and blocked a national highway in tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj district.

The Adivasi Kurmi Samaj (AKS) that spearheaded the stir in Bengal has set a September 20 deadline for the central and state governments to meet their demand, failing which it has threatened a bigger inter-states agitation.

Also read | Bengal: Mamata government in a fix as Kurmis protest for ST status

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