GUWAHATI: The demand for a separate Bodoland has once again taken Assam by storm. At the forefront, this time is student leader Promod Bodo. A state-wide bandh has been called on September 11 and agitators have threatened an indefinite mass hunger strike beginning next month.
From fighting issues concerning students as the president of All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) to spearheading a mass movement, Promod has been instrumental in bringing myriad Bodo organisations under one roof and putting up a united front. He says Bodos feel insecure under the administration.
“Bodos don’t feel secure physically, morally, linguistically, socially and culturally. They feel like second-class citizens. The present system couldn’t give them dignity. They feel being discriminated against and deprived,” says 42-year-old Promod, the face of the movement.
The Centre had signed two accords with ABSU in 1993 and with the erstwhile insurgent group Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) in 2003. Alongside a democratic movement, Bodos have also waged an armed struggle for Bodoland. Promod says the accords have neither ensured Constitutional safeguards to the community and the demarcation of their boundary as promised, nor have they ensured development in their areas.
The 2003 accord had led to the creation of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), which administers four districts falling under Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD). The general perception among the Bodos, who constitute around 30 per cent of BTAD’s some 32 lakh population, is that the provisions conferred through the accords were impotent to address their fundamental rights.
“Despite having tangible ethno-linguistic difference, Bodos were thrown into the fold of Assam and were victimised to forced assimilation into Assamese identity. Bodos want their language, culture, customs and tradition to be protected,” adds Promod.
How it Began
The Bodoland statehood movement has its genesis in the 1967 demand by the Bodos—the largest plains tribe of the Northeast—for carving a Union Territory named Udayachal out of Assam. Bodos envisage a Bodoland from Sankosh to Sadiya on the north bank of the Brahmaputra river.