A forum of six communities demanding Scheduled Tribe status enforced a 48-hour shutdown affecting normal life in parts of Assam since Monday.The police reported sporadic incidents of violence and disruption of communication in eastern, central and western Assam where the six communities — Moran, Muttock, Tai-Ahom, Kock-Rajbongshi, Chutia and Adivasi (‘tea tribe’) — are in the majority.These communities currently enjoy Other Backwards Class status. The OBCs’ share in Assam’s quota pie is 27%, while the STs (plains), Scheduled Castes and STs (hills) have 10%, 7% and 5% share respectively.Two-decade-old issueThe ST status demand by the six communities has been a major issue for more than two decades now. The Bharatiya Janata Party had promised them tribal status before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.The last meeting between the Centre and the representatives of the six communities was held in April 2017. Leaders of these communities said they are still awaiting a report that was to be submitted by June 2017.The trigger for the two-day shutdown from 5 a.m. on Monday was the alleged snub by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh during a meeting with leaders of the six communities in New Delhi on July 20. “The Minister came and went without saying much except that our issue would be resolved soon,” said Aswini Chetia, adviser of All-Assam Tai-Ahom Students’ Union, adding that neither Mr. Singh, nor Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju “seemed interested in knowing about our demands”. The six communities would organise a rally on July 30 demanding the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fulfil the BJP’s commitment to grant them ST status. Other tribes waryThe existing ST communities in Assam are opposed to the move to grant tribal status to the six ethnic groups. The Coordination Committee of the Tribal Organisations of Assam (CCTOA), representing Bodo, Rabha, Tiwa, Karbi, Dimasa, Mising, Sonowal, Hajong, Garo and Deuri tribes, had in 2011 written to the Singla Committee that the proposal to grant ST status to six “advances and populous OBC communities” was “a conspiracy to destroy/exterminate the existing STs of Assam”.The Centre had set up the committee headed by Mahesh Kumar Singla, then Special Secretary (internal security) in the Home Ministry, on March 1, 2011, to look into the demand of the six communities and its fallout.The CCTOA had said that the Registrar General of India had rejected the demand of the six communities eight times between 1981 and 2006. The Centre did grant ST status to the Koch-Rajbongshis for six months in 1996, but it was revoked after it was found that 33 of 42 medical seats and 17 of 21 engineering seats apart from other courses reserved for STs had been taken away by the Koch-Rajbongshis.Tribal-majority State?Social scientists say granting ST status to the six communities would make Assam a tribal majority State and would entitle it to special safeguards that might help in solving complications arising out of alleged illegal influx into the State affecting its demographic balance.If granted reservation, the number of Assembly seats reserved for tribal people is expected to jump from the existing 16 to about 85-90 in the 126-seat House by way of fresh delimitation of constituencies.