No statehood or Union Territory status to BTAD
GUWAHATI/ KOKRAJHAR, Jan 25: Amid protest by non-Bodo organisations, the Centre is all set to sign a fresh accord with the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) and four factions of National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) on Monday providing political and economic bonanza to the tribals, sans the outfit’s key demand of a separate Bodoland state or union territory.
It is to be mentioned that on Saturday, NDFB (R) supremo Ranjan Daimary was released on interim bail from the Guwahati Central Jail and was taken to New Delhi for participation in Bodo peace talks with the Union government.
A specially constituted division bench of the Gauhati High Court had on Friday granted him interim bail for four weeks, following which he was released from jail and escorted to Lokopriyo Gopinath International airport enroute to New Delhi, Daimary’s lawyer Manas Sarania told reporters.
The NDFB (R) chief was asked to pay a surety of Rs 50,000 and the government directed to make adequate security arrangements for his travel, Sarania said.
“The bail application was filed to facilitate Daimary’s participation in the peace talks between the Centre and various National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) factions,” he said.
Non-Bodo organisations, including All Koch Rajbongshi Students Union (AKRSU), have been protesting against the Centre and the state government for their move to give more autonomy to the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) by signing a fresh accord with four factions of NDFB and ABSU.
In the accord, the government is likely to ensure safeguard of Bodo language and culture and related matters.
A commission is also likely to be set up to take views of a cross section of the people in Assam in providing some specific political rights to the Bodos. Promise to set up a sports university and job-oriented higher education institutions are also expected to be part of the pact.
It is immediately not clear whether the status of the existing Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) will be enhanced.
However, the Centre would neither upgrade the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) to a Union Territory, as part of a new peace accord Assam finance minister and North East Development Alliance (NEDA) convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
Sarma said no new village or area would be added to the BTAD under the new accord.
“The Centre has informed the state government that no Union Territory will be created nor new areas would be added to the BTAD, but the accord will ensure that the territorial integrity of Assam is maintained,” he told reporters.
People of Assam should be rest assured that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah would not agree to the division of Assam, he stated.
“The Union government has taken the initiative to hold peace talks with the various stakeholders in the BTAD. The entire framework (of the accord) is being prepared by the Centre,” Sarma said.
“If a fresh accord is signed in the near future, permanent peace will come to Bodoland and territorial integrity will also remain intact,” Sarma added.
The tripartite agreement will be signed in the presence of Union home minister Amit Shah and Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal by top leadership of the four factions of the NDFB, Union joint secretary of ministry of home affairs (MHA) Satyendra Garg and Assam chief secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna.
“The accord will provide for some political rights to the Bodos and some economic packages to the community,” a senior official of Assam government said.
However, the official made it clear that the territorial integrity of Assam will be maintained and the key demand of the NDFB, which is either a separate state or a UT, is not going to be entertained.
“The accord will be within the framework of the Constitution without splitting the state,” the official said.
The four factions of the NDFB, which will sign the pact, are led by founder NFDB chairman Ranjan Daimari, NDFB-Progressive chairman Govinda Basumatary, NDFB(Ceasefire) chairman Dhiren Boro and NDFB- Songbijit chief B Saoraigra.
Saoraigra took over the NDFB faction in 2015, removing its chief, I K Songbijit, who had allegedly ordered the killing of nearly 70 Adivasis in December 2014.
The NDFB-Saoraigra faction had returned from their base in Myanmar about a fortnight ago and signed an agreement with the government for the suspension of operations.
Daimari was released on an interim bail for four-week on Friday, facilitating his participation in signing of the accord. The NDFB continues to be a banned outfit.
It will be the third Bodo accord to be signed in last 27 years when the violent movement for a separate Bodoland state claimed hundreds of lives, destruction of public and private properties.
The first Bodo Accord was signed on February 20, 1993 with former Bodo Volunteer Force (BVF) leaders for formation of Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC).
The second Bodo Accord was signed February 10, 2003 with former BLT leaders which led to formation of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) with– Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baska and Udalguri districts– called the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD).
The BTC has control over 30 subjects like education, forests, horticulture but no jurisdiction on the police, revenue and general administration departments, which are controlled by the state government.
The BTC was formed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
The demand for a separate state for the Bodos has been going on in Assam for about five decades and several Bodo overground and militant groups raising it leading to agitations, protests, violence and many deaths.
The new accord is likely give more empowerment to the council besides giving nod to get ST (Hills) status to Bodos living in Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao.
Several higher educational instructions, including NERIMS, central universities, AIIMS, direct funding, language and culture development, political rights for the Bodos living outside of Bodoland area to be come up in the agenda of the agreement.
Different organisations from the Bodo belts have expressed their satisfaction over the proposed agreement to be signed with the Centre and the state governments.
“The peace process with the Centre is going on a positive direction for inclusive solutions. The government is working hard for the permanent solution to put an end to decade long insurgency in BTAD,” ABSU president Pramod Boro said.
“If the Centre will understand why we have been demanding statehood and reflect it in the final accord, we will give up the demand of statehood forever,” he added.