Bodo groups plan mass agitation

– Seminar and sit-in in Delhi on August 9 and 10

New Delhi, July 23: Bodo groups in Assam are planning to start a mass movement in support of their demand for a separate “Bodoland” state.

Some Bodo leaders said they could even discuss a “change in nomenclature” of the “state” if the Centre was flexible to political-level talks.

The All Bodo Students Union and the People’s Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement are the principal actors in the move to return to the grassroots, alleging government apathy. Plans are afoot to let the noise reach a crescendo when election fever hits a high in Assam next year. Assembly election will be held in the state in 2016 and the Bodo groups’ signal to the BJP, which wants to make a mark in the election, is: Consider the demand for a separate state to be carved out of Assam.

Absu president Pramod Boro and PJACBM member Jebraram Moochahary are in talks with other groups of the Northeast to re-ignite a “democratic movement” in Assam.

Boro said the first step would be a seminar, Prospectives and Issues of Smaller States, and a sit-in to be held in Delhi on August 9 and 10. The Narendra Modi-led NDA government is set to get a bashing primarily for reneging on its stand to create smaller states.

“We will not come back to Delhi after that,” Boro told this correspondent here today, hinting at mass protests in the strategic corridor that passes through the Bodo belt.

He and Moochahary said despite several reminders, the government had refused to initiate “political-level” talks with Bodo groups, including the Govinda Basumatary-led National Democratic Front of Boroland (Progressive), which is in peace pact with the Centre since 2007.

Prospects looked bright for the pro-Bodoland groups after the Centre bifurcated Andhra Pradesh and Telangana came into being. Several groups began preparing for protests, arguing that if Telangana can be created, so can Bodoland.

The movement suffered a setback after Bodo candidates got a drubbing at the hustings in the general elections last year and a unified non-Bodo group’s candidate, former Ulfa rebel Naba Kumar Sarania, got elected to the Lok Sabha from the area.

Then, late last year, the I.K. Songbijit-led NDFB (S) went on a killing spree, butchering people, including children, from the minority community. That served a severe blow to the credibility of the pro-Bodoland groups many of who were in a dilemma on what political stance to take.

“Our single purpose now is to mobilise a non-violent movement for Bodoland,” said Boro, who had opposed NDFB (S)’s violence in favour of democratic methods. He said the groups had met Union home minister Rajnath Singh and his junior minister Kiren Rijiju at least five times over the past year without any results. Unless political-level talks begin, there is no point in returning to the capital, he said.

A leader in one of the groups, requesting anonymity, said they were even willing to discuss the nomenclature, if political-level talks begin.

The “Bodoland” imbroglio continues despite a settlement with the Bodoland Liberation Tigers and eventually the formation of Bodoland Territorial Council under the Sixth Schedule. The BTC governs the Bodoland Territorial Areas District, comprising the four districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri. The BTC is the only council in the plains of the Northeast that was included in the provisions of the Sixth Schedule, granting autonomy to the council to run the area’s administration.

A major reason for the “Bodoland” demand is the numbers. Bodos are the single largest ethnic group in the BTAD with others like the Koch Rajbongshis, the Rabhas and the Muslims forming part of the diverse milieu. But the Bodos are far less than half the population, leaving the other groups insecure, especially with the state named “Bodoland” that others feel has a majoritarian resonance.

For now, the disparate Bodo groups are introspecting on unifying their own and returning to the basics with like-minded groups like the state demand committee of the Kukis in Manipur. The Telegraph. 24 July 2015

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