Govt. signs accord with NDFB, ABSU to bring peace to Bodo areas
- 1,550 cadres along with their arms will surrender on January 30
- Economic package of INR 1,500 crore will be implemented in next three years
- Bodoland Territorial Council seats to be expanded from 40 to 60
New Delhi, Jan. 27 (PTI): With an aim to bring permanent peace in Bodo-dominated areas in Assam, the government on Monday signed an accord with the dreaded insurgent group National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) and two other outfits, providing political and economic benefits without acceding to the demand for a separate state or Union Territory.
The All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), which has been spearheading a movement for a Bodoland state since 1972, and the United Bodo People’s Organisation were also signatories to the Comprehensive Bodo Settlement Agreement.
In the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the tripartite agreement was signed by top leaders of the four NDFB factions, the ABSU and the UBPO; Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry Satyendra Garg; and Assam Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal also signed the pact as one of the witnesses.
Soon after the agreement was signed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it would usher in a new dawn of peace, harmony and togetherness.
“Today is a very special day for India. The Accord with Bodo groups, which has been inked today will lead to transformative results for the Bodo people.
“Bodo Accord inked today stands out for many reasons. It successfully brings together the leading stakeholders under one framework. Those who were previously associated with armed resistance groups will now be entering the mainstream and contributing to our nation’s progress,” Modi said in a series of tweets.
The home minister described the agreement as “historic” and said it would bring permanent solution to the decades-old problems of the Bodo people.
“This agreement will facilitate all round development of the Bodo areas, their language and culture will be protected without compromising the territorial integrity of Assam,” he told reporters after the accord was signed.
The home minister said due to the violence perpetrated by the Bodo militants, over 4,000 people lost their lives in the past few decades.
The NDFB was responsible for a series of violent acts in the past few decades, including the massacre of nearly 70 Adivasis in December 2014.
Shah said no stone would be left unturned for the development of Assam and the Northeastern region.
“A final and comprehensive solution to their demands has been made, while retaining the territorial integrity of Assam. After the agreement, NDFB factions will leave the path of violence, surrender their weapons and disband their armed organisations within a month of signing the deal,” he said.
The Assam chief minister said that after the accord different communities in the state will be able to live with harmony and it with lay the foundation of a bright future, fulfilling aspirations of the people.
“A historic day for peace and progress of Assam. The signing of the tripartite agreement under guidance and leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah resolves a decades long conflict and permanently reaffirms the territorial integrity of Assam,” he said.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said the pact will bring comprehensive solution to the Bodo issue. “It is a historic accord,” he said.
Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said as per the accord, 1,550 militants belonging to the NDFB will lay down their arms on January 30, an economic programme of INR 1,500 crore will be implemented in the next three years with equal contribution of INR 750 crore each from the central and state governments.
Around 1,550 cadres of NDFB(P), NDFB(RD) and NDFB(S) will be rehabilitated by the central and state governments.
Sarma said the existing structure of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) will be strengthened with more powers and its seats will be expanded from 40 to 60, he said.
A commission will be set up for inclusion of Bodo-dominated villages in the BTC and exclusion of those where Bodos are not in majority.
This was the third Bodo accord to be signed in 27 years.
The first accord was signed with the All Bodo Students Union in 1993, leading to the creation of a Bodoland Autonomous Council with limited political powers.
In 2003, the second accord was signed with the militant group Bodo Liberation Tigers, leading to formation of a Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) with four districts of Assam — Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baska and Udalguri — called Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD).
As per Monday’s accord, the name of BTAD will be changed to Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) and it will have more executive, administrative, legislative and financial powers.
The BTC currently has control over 30 subjects such as education, forests, horticulture but no jurisdiction over the police, revenue and general administration departments, which are controlled by the Assam government.
The BTC was formed under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution.
The Assam government will soon notify Bodo language as in Devanagari script as an associate official language of the state.
The state government will give INR 5 lakh each to the next of kin of those who lost their lives during the agitation for a separate state, criminal cases with non-heinous charges against NDFB members will be withdrawn while heinous cases will be reviewed case-to-case basis as per the existing rules, according to the pact.
The demand for a separate state for the Bodos has been going on in Assam for about five decades with several Bodo overground and militant groups raising the issue.
No need to worry, says Sonowal on Accord, as pact evokes mixed response
The Bodo Peace Accord evoked a mixed response in Assam on Monday, with supporters of the pact expressing jubilation and non-Bodo outfits staging a 12-hour bandh against the agreement even as Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal asserted that no community living in the state have anything to worry about the settlement.
The Centre on Monday signed an accord with all factions of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), the All Bodo Students’ Union and the United Bodo People’s Organisation (UBPO), providing political and economic bonanza sans a separate state or a Union Territory.
Sonowal said the Bodo Peace Accord will be implemented keeping the territorial integrity of Assam intact.
“All the clauses in the Agreement will be executed with the support of all stakeholders and no community living in the state should be worried about the pact,” he said in a statement.
Sonowal said the pact will respect the sentiments of everyone and the Bodo community must proceed towards its implementation by taking everybody along.
The chief minister also hoped that the people of Assam would extend full support towards the process.
“People from all sections of the society have been extending their support to the state government’s initiatives to make Assam terrorism-free and this Accord would play a crucial role in the peace-building process,” he said.
He also urged the young generation to contribute towards the developmental efforts.
Sonowal appreciated the roles played by Himanta Biswa Sarma, convenor of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) — the equivalent of NDA in the region — and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) chief Hagrama Mohillary in making the agreement a success.
He also congratulated the residents of the Bodoland Territorial Administrative Districts (BTAD) and assured them that the state government will extend full support in implementing the pact in letter and spirit.
BTAD comprises four districts of Assam — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri — that are governed by the BTC.
Meanwhile, Bodo people wearing traditional attire assembled at ABSU offices and welcomed the pact by bursting crackers and distributing sweets, while agitators set vehicles on fire and burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah at several places in the BTAD.
Business establishments and educational institutes were closed and vehicles remained off the roads during the bandh called by outfits such as All Koch-Rajbongshi Students’ Union (AKRSU), All BTC Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU), All Assam Adivasi Students’ Union (AAASU) and Oboro Suraksha Samiti.
They demanded that all non-Bodo stakeholders residing in the BTAD and the banned Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) be included in the peace talks and made signatories to the accord.
Kokrajhar’s Independent MP Naba Sarania led a delegation of 15 non-Bodo organisations to meet Governor Jagdish Mukhi and submit a memorandum, highlighting their concerns over the Accord and urging him to convey them to the Centre.
On the other hand, several prominent persons from the Bodo community expressed happiness over the pact and hoped it will usher in an era of development in the region.
ABSU’s Kokrajhar District Education Secretary Khamba Basumatary told PTI,”Today is a historic day. We are very happy. However, we have asked all the Bodo people to remain alert and stay indoors for a few days as some miscreants may try to create disturbances.”
Kenny Basumatary, Bollywood actor and a prominent Assamese filmmaker from the Bodo community, said, “I hope that not just a few rich contractors, development of everyone happens. I wish peace and growth continue in the region.”
Noted vocalist Jiten Basumatary hoped that creation of the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) will bring in development and create jobs.
“It is a really good news that medical colleges, universities and other such centres will be set up in the region. These will help students get better education and create jobs. All people living in these areas will be benefited,” he said.
However, non-Bodo people, including Sarania, expressed dissatisfaction over the signing of the pact, terming it a “political conspiracy”.
He said the pact was signed as the “ruling political dispensation was not confident of winning the upcoming Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) elections”, scheduled to be held in April.
“A wave of change has been sweeping across the BTAD and both the Hagrama Mohilary-led Bodo Peoples’ Front (BPF) and the BJP, allies in the state government, realised that the going will be tough with allegations of corruption amounting to crores of rupees against the BTC rulers,” Sarania told reporters.
He claimed that the NDFB(R), whose chief Ranjan Daimary was granted interim bail in the 2008 Assam blast case that killed 88 people, had expressed an interest for negotiations two years ago but were told then that it was not possible till the serious cases against them are resolved.
“What has happened now? Why did the government delay holding the negotiations? The NIA court last year sentenced Ranjan Daimary to life imprisonment but now suddenly he was released on bail and participated in the talks. Does this not point to a political conspiracy?” Sarania said.
He stated that the cases against Daimary should not be dropped and law should be allowed to take its course.
Sarania urged all the non-Bodo communities not to be disheartened as “the Accord will give an opportunity to work unitedly so that our goals are realised and we are not discriminated against”.
“If there is discrimination against the non-Bodos, we will go to the courts, protest democratically and take further the initiative of creating a political alternative,” he said.
Sarania said that the “only positive thing about the Accord” is that the state and central governments along with the BTC are claiming that the “decades-old Bodo problem will end and we hope that this happens”.
“We do not want disturbances in the area and want to live in peace,” he asserted.
He also regretted that no representative of any non- Bodo organisation was part of the discussions that led to the signing of the Accord.
Non-Bodo outfits observe 12-hour bandh in Assam over accord
A 12-hour Assam bandh called by various non-Bodo organisations on Monday in protest against the Centre’s move to sign a peace accord with different Bodo stakeholders has brought life to a standstill in the four districts under the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
Official sources told PTI that normal life has been affected in Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri districts but the bandh did not have any impact in other areas of the state.
Apart from burning of tyres in some areas in Kokrajhar district, no major incident of violence has been reported so far, police said.
All educational institutions remained closed though some examinations scheduled in the colleges were held.
Vehicles, including long-distance buses, remained off the roads and all shops and business establishments were shut.
Railway services remained unaffected so far with all major trains running on schedule, a Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) spokesperson told PTI.
The bandh has been called by various organisations including the All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union (AKRSU), All Bodo Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU), All Adivasi Students’ Union, Oboro Suraksha Samiti, Kalita Janagoshti Students’ Union among others.
The non-Bodo organisations are demanding that all non-Bodo stakeholders residing in the Bodoland Territorial Administrative Districts (BTAD) and the banned Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) should be included in the peace talks and made signatories to the accord that is likely to be signed on Monday.