| Absu activists take out the cycle rally at Tamulpur on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos |
Kokrajhar/Dhubri, Aug. 14: Assam is staring at another round of statehood agitation with the All Bodo Students Union and the All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union unveiling their protest plans today, alleging that chief minister Tarun Gogoi had failed to adhere to his promise on tripartite talks.
The All Bodo Students Union (Absu) announced a mass gathering on August 20, an indefinite hunger strike on August 22, a 24-hour national highway blockade on August 28 and a 24-hour railway blockade on September 10 in support of its demand for a separate state for the Bodos.
The All Koch Rajbongshi Students Union (AKRSU) said it would hold a 12-hour railway blockade on Friday, a 12-hour strike in all government and non-government offices on Saturday and a 12-hour road blockade on Sunday to press for a Kamtapur state.
Absu president Promode Boro told reporters at Bodofa House, the student union’s office in Kokrajhar, that Gogoi had failed to arrange for tripartite talks on or before August 13 as he had promised during their last meeting on August 7. “The entire effort of the chief minister and the Centre raises questions on the role of the Union and state government,” he added.
The Biswajit Ray faction of AKRSU also said Gogoi had failed to meet the August 15 deadline for arranging talks with the Centre as agreed upon during a meeting on August 7. Ray told reporters at the union’s headquarters in Bongaigaon that it had also been made clear during the meeting that if talks were not held by the deadline, the union would resume its agitation from August 16.
The organisations announced their agitation plans today despite the Centre announcing yesterday that parleys would be held very soon, though it set no deadline for the talks. The Centre’s announcement came after Gogoi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, acting home minister P. Chidambaram, and officials in the home ministry in the last few days and stressed the need to hold dialogues with state seekers.
When it was pointed out that the Centre had announced talks, both Boro and Ray said they had not received any communication from Gogoi so far.
“We cannot wait for long, so we were compelled to announce our agitation today,” Ray told The Telegraph. He said if Gogoi formally communicates a date for the talks, they could temporarily call off the strikes and blockades.
The Absu said it wants the Centre to resolve its demand for Bodoland or a separate state for the Bodos.
Boro said they do not want to launch a movement just for the sake of it or harass common people. But if they are denied their “fundamental rights”, they would continue their “democratic movement” for self-identity, self-determination and self-rule, necessary to protect and uplift the culture, tradition, political rights and social growth of the Bodos and other backward indigenous communities living in the proposed Bodoland.
He said the Absu has, for the past 25 years, been “democratically” demanding a separate state for the uplift of the indigenous communities living in the proposed Bodoland. But the UPA government had, for its political benefit, taken a “partial decision” while creating a new state (Telangana) by ignoring one of the oldest demands for a separate state.
He said the Centre’s denial had compelled Absu after 12 years to call a total Assam bandh. “Let the government solve our problem and we will lift our agitation,” he added.
The Absu also criticised the A-Boro Suraksha Samiti for criticising the Bodo community. “If they have anything to say or demand, say it to the government. But they are working against the Bodos and other indigenous communities, which is a violation of human rights and atrocities against the tribal people,” Boro said.
Former chairman of Dima Halam Daogah, Dilip Nunisa, warned that the government should not underestimate the people of “Dimaland” as the Dimasas would not hesitate to launch a violent agitation.
In a statement, Nunisa said the Centre’s “revision” of its “policy to create separate state” had given a moral boost to the “Dimasas and other communities demanding a separate state of Dimaland”.
He said organisations fighting for Dimaraji should keep their gunpowder dry to fight for the creation of a state. He urged the Centre to invite these organisations for tripartite talks. He also appealed to the people to strengthen their peaceful democratic movement.
“The chief minister was not in favour of further division of the state. But now the Assam government has no option other than resolve the issue,” Nunisa said. He thanked Gogoi for taking the initiative to arrange tripartite talks for the protesters.
He, however, added that talks should not be held only with organisations resorting to violent protests.