|The deserted streets of Kokrajhar on Monday, the first day of Absu’s 48-hour strike. Picture by UB Photos
Aug. 5: KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi today said the Bodo community could ask for a separate state or even an independent country but it has to look after the interests of other communities.
Participating in the 60-hour Absu strike that paralysed life in BTAD and most areas on the north bank, Akhil today expressed sentiments at a rally at Rowta in Udalguri district that most “mainstream” leaders would perhaps consider unthinkable.
Akhil said primarily the monolithic and non-inclusive Constitution prevented the progress of smaller indigenous groups. Secondly, the alienation of such groups was a result of chauvinism of the Assamese community and its exploitation of smaller communities.
He, however, cautioned the Bodos, saying they could not depend on “the likes of Hagrama Mohilary” for the emancipation of their community as he, too, was with the ruling Congress at Dispur.
Though Akhil supported the Bodo movement for self-determination, he stopped short of supporting the statehood demand because he said it will not yield the desired result, as the Constitution has vested most of the powers with the Centre.
He called for equal representation of other communities in any future set-up and peace to be maintained at all costs.
Today’s strike was the first one called by Absu in 12 years. The 60-hour strike, reduced to 48 hours in view of Id, affected running of trains and movement of vehicles along NH 31(C) and NH 52.
Traffic was stranded at various places along the national highways. “We were headed to Alipurduar (West Bengal) but are stranded because of some strike. We were told security escorts would be provided but don’t know when it will happen,” said a bus passenger.
During the strike, a motorbike belonging to an Absu supporter was torched by the public at Kalakuchi under Misamari police station in Sonitpur district when a group of strike supporters asked businessmen to shut shop. In another incident, they damaged vehicles and a motorbike at Balipara-Khelmati in the district this morning.
While life in BTAD was hit, Karbi Anglong district limped to normality despite the 1,100-hour strike called by the Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers from 5am.
Curfew was relaxed in Diphu for six hours from 8am with local administration keeping government and private institutions and markets open by beefing up security.
All eyes are on Delhi, said a student leader.
A team comprising members of the two district autonomous councils, five legislators and Diphu Lok Sabha MP Biren Singh Engti will be in New Delhi till August 8.
“They (Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister and home minister) have agreed to sit with us separately at anytime,” Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council chief executive member Jayram Engleng said from New Delhi.
On the other hand, Biswajit Roy, president of the All Koch-Rajbongshi Students’ Union (AKRSU), downplayed the demand of Bodoland and projected his community’s demand of Kamtapur as genuine with supporting historical documents.
The students’ body has been observing a fast since yesterday afternoon demanding re-formation of a separate Kamtapur state.
Roy said, “We respect the nationalism of Bodos but we oppose the creation of Bodoland at the cost of our history.”
The AGP today claimed that the Congress was fomenting trouble in Karbi Anglong to gain political mileage in the Lok Sabha polls as it was the party’s policy to divide and rule.
AGP working president Atul Bora also demanded the Centre’s intervention to defuse the situation since Dispur has failed to control it. He also expressed suspicion that since there were allegations of rampant corruption in Karbi Anglong and demand for a CBI probe gained steam, there is a possibility that government offices may have been burnt down to destroy evidence.
AGP president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta has convened an all-party meeting tomorrow to discuss the statehood agitation.
Ten local trains were cancelled in view of the ongoing protests and strike called by organisations while an empty goods train derailed near Maibong in Dima Hasao district at 5.40pm on Monday.
Train movement was also stopped in the morning because of protest at Bijni in Chirang district but resumed in the afternoon.
NFR public relations officer Nripen Bhattacharya said unidentified men had removed the fish plates, resulting derailment of two engines and a coach. There was, however, no casualty.