Accusing the Centre of neglecting and ignoring the issues of Bodo people, three leading groups involved in the Bodoland statehood movement in Guwahati announced that they would relaunch their agitation from next week.
- All Bodo Students Union (ABSU),
- National Democratic Front of Boroland (Progressive)
- People’s Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement
- These groups will block the national highways across Assam for five hours demanding solution to the problems of Bodo people.
- Lack of job opportunities, poverty and creation of huge wealth overnight by surrendered militants are forcing youths to join underground organisations across Assam.
- Recently in the State assembly election BJP won and established the government.
The Bodoland problem has four major dimensions:
- Conflict of interests between Bodos and non-Bodos, mainly Muslims and illegal immigrants.
- Delineation of the border of the Bodo Territorial Areas Districts, as it includes areas with Bodo minority that the non-Bodos are objecting.
- Demand for a separate state of Bodoland.
- Demand for independence from the Union of India to form a sovereign Bodoland.
- The northern most region of Assam, which lies on the northern bank of Brahmaputra River, adjoining the foothills of Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh is predominantly inhabited by the Bodo people and serves as a gateway to the complete North Eastern region of India.
- The people of this region feel that their aspirations have not been met in terms of growth and development.
- Hence they have been demanding for a separate state of Bodoland (within the Indian Union) to be created by carving out some area of eight districts of the current State of Assam, namely Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamrup, Darang and Sonitpur districts.
- Bodos happen to be the earliest inhabitants of the Brahmaputra valley. The complete NE region of India, especially the areas north of Brahmaputra River were highly underdeveloped prior to independence.
- The region is known to have an abundance of natural resources like oil, natural gas and Assam tea.
- However, due to lack of infrastructure and inapt road connectivity to major cities of Assam, the area lagged behind in terms of education, employment and development.
- After 1947, certain steps were taken by the government to safeguard the interests of Bodo people, like giving them the status of Scheduled Tribes (ST) and by the creation of tribal belts and blocks (for scheduled-tribes), which was a mechanism to protect farming and grazing landsmainly from rich landlord and illegal immigrants.
- However, by the early 1960s the Plains Tribal’s Council of Assam (PTCA), a political party representing Bodos and other plains tribal’s of Assam realized that tribal belts and blocks were gradually being acquired by rich landlords or new immigrants through illegal means.
- This problem got further aggravated when the Government of India decided to open the floodgates for refugees seeking asylum in India from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), before its separation from Pakistan in 1971.
- Therefore, the original inhabitants of the region got marginalised by the mass influx of many affluent and also, desperate outsiders.
- At present the demographic orientation of the region comprises of just 28% Bodo, 20% Muslims, 15% Adivasis, and rest are Assamese, Bengali Hindus and non-Bodo tribes.
- In order to address this issue, in 1967, PTCA demanded a Union Territory status for an area to be carved out of Assam, called
- The proposed Udayachal map included mainly those areas that were known as tribal belts and blocks. However, the demand for Udayachal never materialized.
Demand for Bodoland
- The large size of Assam state, lack of political representation of Bodo people, rampant corruption that diverted financial packages meant for Bodo people from the Centre government, resulted in All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) and Bodo political parties jointly demanding a separate state, called Bodoland in late 1980s.
- For similar reasons, Khasis and Garos had earlier carved out Meghalaya from Assam.
- Officially, the Bodoland Movement for an independent state of Bodoland started on 02 March 1987, under the leadership of ABSU leader Upendrenath Brahma.
- The ABSU created a political organisation called the Bodo Peoples’ Action Committee (APAC), and heightened its agitation for division of Assam 50:50.
- Consequently, a Bodo Accord was signed on 20 February 1993, which led to the creation ofBodo Autonomous Council (BAC).
- However, the accord soon collapsed due to a vertical split between the ABSU and the other political parties, which led to widespread violence and displacement of over 70,000 people.
- Agitations and large scale riots took place again in 1994, 1996, and May 2014 as the Bodos continued to feel insecure.
- The Bodos feared that they would be reduced to a minority in their own homeland.
Bodo Territorial Council Act-2003
- Finally, after a series of rounds of deliberate and meaningful talks, the militant cadres laid down their arms and signed an agreement with the government called the Bodo Accord-2003.
- As per the provisions of this Accord, a Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) was established and aBodo Territorial Areas Districts (BTAD) was created under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
- The aim of creating BTAD was to safeguard the interests of Bodo people and ensure theirappropriate representation in socio-political decision making processes in the region.
- The BTAD comprises of 35% of the state of Assam and the areas include districts of Kokrajhar, Baska, Chirang and Udalguri.
- The Bodos Territorial Council is being presently controlled by one of the parties of Bodos,i.e. the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF). The council offers considerable local autonomy to more than 3,000 villages that are home to Bodo tribesmen.
Reasons for Frequent Clashes and Riots
- The Bodo Accord seeks to protect the rights of indigenous Bodo people, but at the same timeallows Muslim settler (both legal and illegal) and non-Bodo tribes to freely acquire land in the BTAD.
- Bangladeshi illegal migrants have been obtaining documents, like ration cards illegally to establish their nationality and buying land in the region.
- Non-Bodos and Muslims feel that Bodos, that comprise only 25 % of the total population, should not be given the authority to rule over and control three-fourth of the population in the BTAD.
- However, Bodos feel that they are the largest tribal community out of the 34 other tribal communities of Assam and hence, cannot be neglected, exploited and discriminated against.
- A number of villages with Bodo minority have been included in the BTAD to maintain a contiguous area, that has created conflict and the non-Bodos want these to be removed from the BTAD.
- Hence, both Bodos and non-Bodos are demanding to review the Bodo Territorial Council Act-2003.
- The Bodos feel that their rights are not being protected and they might be reduced to a minority in their own homeland.
- The non-Bodos feel that the Bodos are being given more benefit than they ought to be getting.
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