Centre closing on agreement to solve Bodo issue in Assam

Speculations are rife the agreement will be signed any day after Sunday.

Published: 25th January 2020 08:03 PM  |   Last Updated: 25th January 2020 08:03 PM   |  A+A-

File picture of Bodo groups for representational purpose | PTI

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: The Centre is inching closer to signing an agreement to solve the protracted Bodo problem in Assam.

Speculations are rife the agreement will be signed any day after Sunday.

What fuelled the speculations are some recent events including safe passage given to members of an insurgent group by the government to return to India from Myanmar and Bhutan, visit of top leaders of all four rebel groups and some Bodo organisations to New Delhi to join peace talks, the Assam government not opposing the interim bail petition of rebel leader Ranjan Daimary and hectic parleys held between Centre’s interlocutor in Bodo peace talks AB Mathur and several Bodo civil society organisations.

Daimary is serving life term in jail. Convicted in the 2008 serial bomb blasts case in Assam in which nearly 100 people had lost their lives, he walked out of jail on Saturday and was scheduled to catch a flight to Delhi to take part in the talks.

The Bodos have been fighting for long demanding the creation of a separate “Bodoland” state with areas falling under northern and western Assam. However, the state’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Saturday that the Bodo agreement would not cause any division of the state’s territory.

“The Central government is trying to come up with an agreement to solve the Bodo issue. It has clearly told us that there will not be any division of Assam. There won’t be the creation of any Union Territory by slicing off Assam’s land and no part of undivided Sonitpur district will enter the BTC (autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council which administers four Assam districts),” Sarma told journalists.

He appealed to people, particularly those who are living in undivided Sonitpur district in northern Assam, not to be worried about the agreement or believe in rumours.

Bodo organisations are not too excited. The All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), which has been a part of the movement for a long time, felt the Bodos are not going to get anything big.

“The Bodos are not going to get gold or diamond. The agreement will only help unite the youths, who are lodged in the designated camps of the rebels after spending time in the jungles of Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh, with their families,” ABSU president Promod Bodo told this newspaper.

Activist Anjali Daimary insisted the settlement should be “honourable”.

“We hope this agreement will fulfil the aspirations of the Bodos. For more than 50 years, the Bodos have fought for their rights. This will be the third Bodo accord and the government should know that this has to be signed as the previous two accords were not satisfactory. We don’t want the fourth or the fifth accord,” she said.

The first accord, which led to the creation of Bodoland Autonomous Council, was signed in 1993 with Bodo civil society organisations. The objective was to provide maximum autonomy to the Bodos for social, economic, educational, ethnic and cultural advancement. The second accord, signed in 2003 with erstwhile insurgent group Bodo Liberation Tigers, had led to the creation of the BTC.

The Bodoland statehood movement has its genesis in the 1967 demand by the Bodos – largest plains tribal group in Northeast – for carving a Union Territory named Udayachal out of Assam. The demand was raised by the Plains Tribal Council of Assam following the realisation that tribal blocks and belts notified by the British were being acquired by rich immigrant landlords.

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