| Activists take part in a demonstration in Udalguri to demand Bodoland. File picture |
Kokrajhar/New Delhi, Aug. 18: The National Democratic Front of Boroland-Progressive (NDFB-P) today said it wanted statehood and was not willing to settle for anything less, like a Union Territory.
In an interview to The Telegraph published on August 12, NDFB (P) general secretary Gobinda Basumatari had dared the Centre to grant Union Territory status to Bodoland.
Today, Basumatari said his statement had been misconstrued and that had they wanted to accept Union Territory status, an accord would already have been signed.
In a statement issued to the media today, Basumatari said, “We are sticking to the demand for Bodoland. We have been demanding creation of the state in accordance with the provisions of Articles 2 & 3 of the Constitution for the past seven years during our dialogue with the government of India.”
Basumatari criticised a section of the press for making a “deliberate attempt to spread misgivings among people about NDFB (P)’s stand by stating that he had scaled down the demand for statehood to that for a Union Territory. “Had we drifted away from the statehood demand and opted for any other settlement, we could have already signed the accord. The NDFB (P) is determined to get statehood and will continue its struggle for Bodoland,” he said.
Basumatari clarified that in reply to a question, he had stated that there was no provision in the Constitution for more power to Sixth Schedule councils except pumping in more money. Bodo people were interested in more political power and not money, he added.
“To give more political power to the Bodos, the next option is statehood. I simply said in between statehood and a Sixth Schedule council, there is one provision that can give more power to the people, and that is a Union Territory. This statement was misquoted and misconstrued. I did not say that we want a Union Territory,” he said.
Basumatari said, “As of now, the situation has changed after declaration of the Congress’s decision to concede the longstanding demand of the people of Telangana area by granting them a state. We have decided to launch our movement for separate state together with other Bodo organisations, including the All Bodo Students’ Union, through peaceful, democratic and non-violence movement.”
“We have decided to work together for statehood till we achieve the objective,” the leader said.
The statement comes at a time when Bodo groups, including NDFB, have demanded tripartite talks regarding the statehood issue.
Sources said the joint secretary (Northeast) in the Union home ministry is likely to visit Dispur this week to discuss the issue with Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi.
In the interview, Basumatari had pointed that out of more than 1.25 crore bighas of land in the 47 tribal belts and blocks in Assam, the tribal communities had been left with only 88 lakh bighas. The rest, he had said, were “de-notified and de-reserved” to accommodate tea gardens and various industries, among others. He had said even the land on which Dispur stood was once “paddy fields of Bodos and Rabhas”.
The NDFB and Absu also accused the state government and to an extent, the media, today of misleading the people.
This week, an Absu letter to the Kokrajhar deputy commissioner was misread as retraction of all agitation programmes, the students’ union said. “We had only said we would not stop trains or resort to blockades till the schedule for tripartite talks is announced. But we will continue with peaceful agitation and would be on an indefinite hunger strike from August 22,” Absu president Pramod Boro said.