Govinda Basumatary on his way to meet the home minister at North Block in New Delhi on Wednesday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Jan. 16: The National Democratic Front of Boroland (Progressive) today mounted pressure on the Centre for statehood amid continuing demand for separate states in the Northeast.
The demand comes at a time when an announcement on the Telangana statehood issue is imminent. On December 28, Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had set a month’s deadline for a decision on the issue, after a meeting here with representatives from eight political parties of Andhra Pradesh.
As the government’s self-imposed deadline, January 28, nears, groups from the Northeast are increasing pressure on Delhi for separate states. These outfits are either in talks with the government for separate states or have already been granted what they feel are “interim” settlements.
NDFB (P) leader Govinda Basumatary and three others made their point when they called on Shinde at North Block today. “If Telangana is declared, we will not sit idle. Then there will be no question of not creating Boroland,” Basumatary later told The Telegraph.
He said Shinde had told them that talks with the outfit on foreigners issue, encroachment of tribal land and statehood would begin by the end of this month.
For the NDFB (P), which has been in peace talks with the Centre for seven years, the Telangana issue comes as a handy tool to remind the Centre of its existence.
“We said our demand is 46 years old so negotiations must be held. We did not raise the issue of Telangana because we still do not know what the government will announce. But if Telangana is announced, there may be fire in that (Bodoland) area,” Basumatary said.
A Gorkha Janmukti Morcha delegation, including its chief Bimal Gurung, his deputy Roshan Giri and two others, had also met Shinde last week and spoken in a similar tenor: Announce statehood for Gorkhaland along with Telangana. Shinde is said to have skirted a clear answer but the ministry has been nervous since.
As the Congress is likely to discuss Telangana in its Chintan Baithak, which will begin at Jaipur on Friday, the issue is unlikely to go off the radar of the groups in the Northeast, officials conceded.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed. After all, we have to consider the risk of resurgence of movements in Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong,” an official said.
In the past two years, the government has made some progress in bringing peace to the Northeast, particularly in Assam and north Bengal. It has granted autonomous territorial councils in lieu of states.
The Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) and the United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), active in these two hill states of Assam, had started off with the demand for separate states but settled for more powers for the district autonomous councils.
But there are other problems pending, including that of Naga rebel factions. The NSCN (Isak-Muivah), which is holding talks with the government, has demanded “Greater Nagaland” with contiguous Naga-inhabited areas carved out from Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
A more recent demand for a “frontier Nagaland” state has come from the state’s four eastern districts of Tuensang, Mon, Kiphire and Longleng.
Sources in the Intelligence Bureau said they were keeping a watch on the eastern region in view of the Telangana situation.
Besides demands from the Northeast and north Bengal, the home ministry has also received demands for creation of Vidarbha in Maharashtra, Saurashtra in Gujarat, Coorg in Karnataka, Koshalanchal in west Orissa and Mithilanchal in north Bihar. On all these issues, the government expects a “broad consensus” in the respective states before thinking of division.