The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Assam rejects BLT demand

Guwahati, Dec. 1: The Assam government has expressed its inability to consider the Bodo Liberation Tigers’ demand for including all 93 additional villages in the proposed Bodoland Territorial Council.

The talks with the outfit have entered a decisive phase with the Cabinet sub-committee on the BTC, which met today, deciding that the government could not agree to the BLT demand. The Cabinet panel felt a solution to the impasse lay on a “give-and-take arrangement based on mutual understanding”.

State welfare of plain tribes and backward classes minister Bharat Chandra Narah, who is in the Cabinet panel, said the government would take a final decision after December 12, but “positively before December 22” when the ceasefire between the BLT and the Centre expires.

Narah said government officials would not be in a position to make a commitment at the tripartite meeting in the absence of a Cabinet decision. But he said the Cabinet panel would brief government officials on the latest developments on December 4.

The BLT has termed the demand on the 93 villages “non-negotiable”. The outfit is expected to adopt a tough posture in the next round of discussions with New Delhi and Dispur, slated for December 5. Narah claimed that the BLT had “agreed” to a give-and-take policy.

The minister said the timeframe had been fixed keeping in mind the December 12 Khumtai bypoll. “Even if both sides arrive at an agreement, the Cabinet would not be able to meet before December 12, as the chief minister and other members of Cabinet panel would be busy campaigning.”

Many organisations representing the tea community that forms a sizeable section of the voters in Khumtai are against the creation of the BTC. The Congress has delayed a decision on the BTC as it does not want to antagonise voters ahead of the Khumtai bypoll, party sources said. Congress candidate Lachit Phukan is facing a tough challenge from the nominee put up by the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha.

On November 13, the BLT had formally agreed to protect the constitutional rights of the non-Bodos within the proposed BTC and also set November 30 as the deadline for finalising the boundary.

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