Will new accord end separate state demand for Bodos?

Will the new accord end the separate state demand for Bodos in Assam?

resident of National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) Govinda Basumatary (C) and President of the United Bodo People's Organization (UBPO) Mihiniswar Basumatary (R) sign an accord with the Center and State government to facilitate all-round development of the Bodo areas, their language and culture without compromising the territorial integrity of Assam, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

Minutes after a fresh agreement was signed in New Delhi with Bodo groups on Monday, home minister Amit Shah stated that it not just culminated the violent movement since 1986 but also ended the fear of further division of Assam.

Shah's claim, however, raised speculation about whether the Bodo groups had given up the demand for a separate state for the Bodos bifurcating Assam. "We can talk about the separate state issue later. But today we are happy that the groups, which took up arms and went to the jungles in Myanmar and Bangladesh have come forward to sign the agreement. We hope the agreement will usher peace and put and end to the long conflicts," said Promod Boro, president of All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU), which has been leading the movement for a seperate state since 1972. 

When pointed out to Shah's statement, Boro said, "The home minister or Himanta Biswa Sarma (Assam minister) can say what the government has to say. But we will see how the promises made in today's accord are implemented. If the promises are implemented in letter and spirit, it will usher peace and more development to the Bodoland region." 

ABSU and other organisations have been demanding separate state for the Bodos comprising four districts under the present Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in western Assam and areas having pre-dominent Bodo population in at least four other districts in central and North Assam.

Biswajit Ray, a former leader of All Koch Rajbongshi Students' Union, another organisation demanding separate state for the Koch Rajbongshi community including those living under BTC said the new accord instead would lay the foundation for a separate state for the Bodos. "This also gives blow to our demand for separate state for the Koch Rajbongshis," he said.

Lok Sabha member from Kokrajhar constituency (comprising all four districts under BTC), Naba Kumar Sarania said they were not against the accord but was unhappy as non-Bodos were not made part of the accord. "I am the MP and people of Bodoland area voted me to the Lok Sabha twice but i was even not invited. We will oppose if the accord is discriminatory to the non-Bodos living in BTC area," said Sarania, also a former Ulfa commander who wrested the Kokrajhar Lok Sabha seat in 2014. "This is part of BJP's strategy to strengthen the saffron party and its ally Bodoland Peoples Front (led by Hagrama Mohilary) in BTC by creating division between Bodos and the non-Bodos. But we will fight politically and give them a fitting reply," he said. 

Sources said the NDFB leaders had given up the demand for separate Bodoland state and could join politics ahead of the election for the BTC, which will now be renamed as Bodoland Territorial Region.