Trucks stranded on NH 31C on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos
Kokrajhar, Jan. 1: The New Year began in the Bodo belt with an indefinite economic blockade as supporters blocked National Highway 31C that connects the Northeast with the country from 5 this morning to demand a separate state for the Bodos.
Hundreds of goods-laden trucks were stranded at several places along NH 31C as the Peoples’ Joint Action Committee for Boroland Movement demanded creation of “Bodoland” and expedition of political dialogue with the National Democratic Front of Boroland (Progressive). The supporters, who carried banners and festoons, demanded creation of “Bodoland” under Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution with special provisions in Article 371 (A).
Serpentine queues of trucks and private vehicles were seen at many places, including Srirampur, Karigaon and Habrubil in Kokrajhar and Champa bridge in Chirang district.
The chief convener of the committee, Jebra Ram Muchahary, said they would block National Highways 31, 37 and 52 to press for “Bodoland”. The NDFB (P) has extended its full support to the blockade.
He said goods vehicles would be blocked but passenger buses, private cars, rickshaws, motorbikes and essential services like health, postal and media vehicles would be exempted. Security forces, however, did not allow private vehicles, including those from neighbouring Bhutan, to ply unescorted.
The committee, a conglomeration of 52 organisations, wants “Boroland” to comprise 32 tribal belts and blocks and adjoining tribal contiguous area of 25,478 square km on the north bank of the Brahmaputra from the Sankosh river in the west to Sadiya in the east.
It is also demanding Sixth Schedule status for the existing non-territorial autonomous councils for indigenous people such as Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council, Tiwa Autonomous Council, Deuri Autonomous Council, Thengal Autonomous Council, Sonowal Autonomous Council and Mising Autonomous Council.
Muchahary alleged that the NDFB (P)’s dialogue with the Centre on “Bodoland” was not moving forward because of lack of political will. He said the matter should be dis cussed at the highest level, as in the case of Telengana, as peace could not prevail “in our area” until and unless a separate state was granted.
He said “Bodoland” was necessary so that the Bodos, other indigenous peoples and people of different communities could live together “in peace with equal rights, status and opportunities” and their languages, cultures and identities could be fully protected under the Constitution.
S. Sanjarang, the information and publicity secretary of NDFB (P), said the demand for a separate state was legitimate and justified both constitutionally and historically. He said the Bodos and other tribal people have been repeatedly denied and deprived of their rights and till this was granted, there would be no peace in the region.
Meanwhile, two youths, Kwmta Goyary and Fwilao Basumatary, were apprehended from here last evening for their alleged involvement in extortion from businessmen and employees in Kokrajhar.