Anuj Choudhury: Since the 1990’s, there have been mushrooming of Koch organizations in the state of Assam, voicing the demands of the general Koch population. The two major demands being the demand for a separate state Kamatapur and include the community as ‘scheduling tribe’ (ST). Political parties like AGP, Congress and BJP has also taken up the ST issue at various points of time as a mobilization tool to gain vote banks in various state elections. However it has seen that various Koch organizations which have been leading the social movement of the Koches for a long time have not been able to convert the social issue into a political issue or mobilize the community on political lines. In short, the community even after having a significant numerical strength in Assam lacks a political party of its own and has mainly become a victim of false promises of other parties over the years.
There are many examples in Assam itself where we have observed that the second stage of a social movement is the formation of a political force. In Assam, we saw how All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) gave birth to Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) to carry forward its demands or how cadets of Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) gave rise to Bodo Peoples’ Party (BPF) to voice its demands politically. In North Bengal, we have seen how the Kshatriya Sammittee tactfully transformed from a social organization into a political organization and its members contested in the general elections after coming of the Government of India Act, 1935, when for the first time reservation for the ‘depressed class’ was allotted. Participation of Kshatriya Sammittee in the general election made headway in British India. This, trend of political mobilization was later continued by Kamatapur Peoples’ Party which can be seen even today in North Bengal.
Unlike North Bengal, in Assam the Koches have not been yet able to turn themselves from a social force to a political force. However, recently for the first time we saw the Koch political party, Kamatapur Progressive Party (KPP), which is founded by Atul Roy, former president Kamatapur Peoples’ Party of North Bengal Kamatapur Peoples’ Party(KPP) having being established in Assam under the leadership of Uttam Kumar Ray just before the 2016 Assam Elections. But due to its immaturity in Assam politics it failed to play an active role in the recent elections. Also, interestingly in the recent elections we saw prominent Koch leaders like Biswajit Ray (ex-President of AKRSU) contesting elections on a Congress ticket, All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union (AKRSU) Barpeta unit supporting Pabindra Deka, A non Koch Candidate, Chilaray Sena supporting Aboro Suraksha Mancha candidates etc. Thus, we have seen that when it comes to political mobilization the community gets divided and this division is created by the community leaders themselves having no common vision for the community and due to lack of unity. This is the main reason why till today the fundamental demands of the Koches is still hanging and the issues faced by the Koches is just seen as a mobilization tool by other political parties. Until and unless various Koch organizations don’t work together to achieve common politically goals, ST and Kamatapur will always remain a distant dream.
(The writer is associate editor at Kamatapur.com)