The Bodos should not suspend their movement for a separate state even if it takes 50 years to get it, says All Bodo Students’ Union president Pramod Boro in an interview to Pranab Bora and Rajiv Konwar of The Telegraph.
Excerpts from the interview
The Telegraph: All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union president Biswajit Ray said the Centre would not create a state for a community or a linguistic group. What do you have to say about this?
Pramod Boro: Bodoland is for all communities. It is for all tribal and non-tribal communities that have been exploited a lot. How can they say that our demand is on linguistic lines?
TT: Ray has invited you to join their Kamtapur movement. What’s your response?
PB: Let them continue their movement. Why should they underestimate us? Bodos have a rich culture, language and identity. We are trying to say goodbye to Assam because its people underestimated us.
TT: There are apprehensions among communities like the Misings and the tea garden workers that they would be exploited if Bodoland is created.
PB: They shouldn’t suffer from such apprehensions. There are 32 tribal belts and blocks in the proposed Bodoland. Everybody will have equal representation.
TT: Then why the name Bodoland?
PB: A movement must have a theme. The Bodos are leading this movement, and hence the name Bodoland. Once the state is created, the government will take the final call.
TT: What will happen to the Bodos living in other districts?
PB: The charter of the proposed Bodoland speaks of political safeguards for Bodos and other tribal groups living outside Bodoland. It advocates Sixth Schedule status for Misings, Tiwas and Rabhas.
TT: What are the factors without which the demand for Bodoland would not have arisen?
PB: Suppression by the Assamese of the identity, culture and language of the Bodos along with their aspirations to keep their entity alive.
TT: Any specific example of this suppression?
PB: What scheme does the Assam government have to protect and preserve the identity of Bodos and other tribal communities and for our culture and language? The Centre included Bodo language in the Eighth Schedule but the Assam government is reluctant to implement it. What bigger example does one need?
TT: How much has the Bodo culture and language progressed after formation of Bodoland Territorial Council?
PB: BTC doesn’t have any scheme in this regard. They cannot do much alone until and unless approved by the state government.
TT: You are fighting for Bodo language but spearheading the present movement in Assamese.
PB: We need to reach out to the government. We must use Hindi or English to reach out to the Centre and Assamese to Assam government. They can’t understand Bodo.
TT: Do you think Asam Sahitya Sabha has done enough for the Bodo language?
PB: It did nothing. Recently, it decided to open learning centres of Bodo language, which, I think, is a temporary effort.
TT: How interested are the central and Assam governments in solving the issue?
PB: Their efforts lack sincerity. They consider it just a problem and try to find ways to manage it. A 40-year-old movement must be dealt with sincerely.
TT: Chief minister Tarun Gogoi has said he was not in favour of further division of Assam.
PB: It’s an unconstitutional statement. The Constitution says the Parliament can create a state or alter a state’s boundary if it wished.
TT: How hopeful are you of the promised tripartite talks?
PB: Not at all. We have been cheated for 40 years. How will talks change anything? We might have to struggle for another 50 years. People should not discontinue their agitation even if takes 50 years.