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Delhi in Bodo nudge

Guwahati, Dec. 19: The Centre today asked the Assam government to demarcate the boundary of the proposed Bodoland Territorial Council by the end of this month to avert the possibility of the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) pulling out of the peace talks.

Union home ministry officials said the directive was issued after a tripartite meeting of representatives of the Centre, the state government and the BLT in New Delhi.

However, P.P. Verma, one of the three officials from Assam to participate in the talks, said the Centre had only “requested” Dispur to resolve the boundary issue “as early as possible”.

Clarifying the state’s stand, Verma said, “We are keen to resolve the issue at the earliest. We told the Centre and the BLT leadership that a decision would be taken tomorrow if the Opposition gives its opinion. We had sought time till mid-January only to ensure that all parties have a say.”

The senior bureaucrat said the meeting, which stretched till late in the night, could not resolve the differences on the reservation of seats for members of the non-Bodo community in the proposed 40-member council.

The state government wants 10 of the 40 seats reserved for representatives of the non-Bodo groups, but the BLT has rejected the proposal. “Efforts are on to narrow down the differences on this topic,” Verma said.

After the meeting ended, Verma, home commissioner B.K. Gohain and the secretary of the department for welfare of plains tribes and backward classes, K.D. Tripathi, went to chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s New Delhi residence to brief him about the developments.

Gogoi later said over phone that he would try to convince all political parties to give their opinions on the proposal to create a new council at the earliest. “We gave them the details they had wanted after the all-party meeting,” he said.

The Centre’s directive has put Dispur in a spot of bother, because it had postponed taking a decision till mid-January. The state government wants to take the Opposition into confidence before deciding whether to bring 93 additional villages, as demanded by the BLT, under the proposed administrative set-up.

The only relief for the state government is the Centre’s “clarification” that the ceasefire with the Bodo insurgent outfit will remain in force till January 21 and not December 21.

A source in the Union home ministry said over telephone from New Delhi that there had been a “mistake” in calculating the date till which the ceasefire agreement would remain in force. He said the issue had since been resolved.

The BLT had threatened to pull out of the peace talks if Dispur did not take a “positive decision” by December 21, the day the ceasefire was supposed to end. The state government had even appealed to the Centre for an extension of the truce by a month.

Representatives of the BLT are understood to have accepted the revised date for expiry of the ceasefire.

The outfit’s vice-chairman, Kamal Muchahari, had said earlier this week that there was no question of extending the ceasefire beyond December 21.

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