The cause of self-determination is best served, not by violence but by democratic means. Rebel outfits that took up arms to realize dreams of self-rule are veering round to peaceful paths. The latest example is the agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In India’s insurgency-infested Northeast, there is now hope of another dawn of peace. A tripartite agreement later this month could bring the curtain down on Bodo insurgency in the region. Both the Assam government and the Bodo Liberation Tigers must be commended for their sincerity of purpose that has apparently enabled them to iron out differences over the formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council. The two sides and the Union home ministry seem to have agreed that they should not stall the signing of the agreement for creating the council. This proves once again that no problem is insurmountable if the fund of goodwill is not exhausted. The BLT seems to have conceded that its demand for inclusion of 93 additional villages in the council area should not jeopardize its basic aim of self-rule within Assam. In return, the Assam government has to show a spirit of accommodation over the economic package the BLT wants for the new council.
The BLT must ensure that the painstaking process of self-rule for the Bodos is not sabotaged by malcontents within the community. It is almost certain that the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland will try to scuttle the peace process with its violent movement for a “sovereign Bodoland”. BLT leaders have to mobilize the community’s opinion, not only in favour of the new council, but also against the NDFB’s violent and irrational secessionism. If the Bodo-inhabited areas are among the poorest in Assam, one of the reasons is the NDFB’s gun culture which has long stalled all development activities. The new council could be the fountainhead of a much-needed economic transformation of the areas. The BLT must also assure the non-Bodos living within the proposed council area that they will not be discriminated against, given the area’s history of ethnic rivalries with tragic conseque-nces. The leaders of the BTC have to work in tandem with the state government to ensure the safety and economic well-being of all communities living in the new administrative set-up. Assam’s chief minister, Mr Tarun Gogoi, may project the council as the first major success story of his 18-month government. But the real success will come if the council runs efficiently enough to live up to the Bodos’ expectations. Both the state government and the BTC have to ensure that.