Statehood activists take out a procession in Karbi Anglong to press for a unified Karbi Anglong-Dima Hasao state. File picture
New Delhi, Sept. 2: Tripartite talks with state-seekers from Assam commenced here today with the Joint Action Committee for Autonomous State demanding a “state within a state” under Article 244A of the Constitution.
Article 244A has been a tool for Karbi and Dimasa groups in Assam to stop short of demanding a separate state. It provides for formation of “an autonomous state” within the state of Assam comprising tribal areas under the Sixth Schedule. The committee feels that implementation of this Article was its constitutional right.
Today’s parleys were with a joint committee of 19 groups from Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao autonomous districts that was asked to come up with “a workable structure”, detailing their justifications for a state, in the first week of October. Ministry of home affairs’ joint secretary (Northeast) Shambhu Singh and Assam home secretary Mukul Gogoi attended the meeting.
“This is our last fight for Article 244A. If they do not implement it, only god and the people know what will happen in Karbi Anglong,” committee convenor Bijoy Teron told The Telegraph after the meeting with government officials this afternoon. The committee’s warning comes weeks after Karbi Anglong burnt following the announcement of Telangana.
Teron said Delhi and Dispur would be responsible for the repercussions of non-implementation of the Article.
The government, in turn, urged the committee to re-examine the consequences of its demand and the impact it would have. “Any act by the state, since it would change the structure of Assam, will require two-thirds majority in Parliament,” said a home ministry source, implying that the settlement on those terms was difficult.
There is little likelihood of the Centre giving in easily to the demand for a “state within a state”. In fact, there has been thinking within North Block of completely doing away with Article 244A since it has never been used after the formation of Meghalaya.
Teron said wider consultations would be held with lawyers and tribal leaders to examine the constitutional provision and how a final demand could be placed.
Tomorrow, talks will be held with Koch-Rajbongshi students, followed by separate rounds of talks on Wednesday and Thursday with Bodo students and social and political groups.
All the groups raised the pitch for states following the declaration by the Congress working committee of carving out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh. Their demands are unlikely to wane soon, as Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde today said the cabinet note on Telangana would be ready in 20 days. He said it would then be vetted by the law ministry.
In Assam, the Aboro Suraksha Somittee today said if required, it would extend support to the movement for a separate Kamtapur but would in no way accept a separate state for Bodos.
A confederation of 46 non-Bodo organisations of lower Assam, the Somittee has called for a rail blockade tomorrow at Pathshala in Barpeta district as part of its movement against crea-tion of a separate state for Bodos.
Its secretary, Jogeshwar Kalita, told The Telegraph today, “If the situation demands, we will extend our support to demand a separate Kamtapur state, as it has a historical background.”
The areas of the proposed states of Kamtapur and Bodoland in Assam overlap. Kamtapur also encompasses several parts of Bengal contiguous to Assam. The All Koch-Rajbongshi Students Union is spearheading the movement for a separate Kamtapur state.
The Somittee said the Centre should put its scheduled talks with Bodo organisations on hold and first hold discussions with it.
The organisation’s chief secretary, Dilwar Islam, said, “There are only 20 per cent Bodos in BTC, while the rest are non-Bodo people. Yet, the majority have been subjected to all kinds of discrimination and oppression by militants and overground organisations since long.”
The Sachetan Gana Mancha of Assam organised a massive rally in Mangaldoi today in protest against creation of new states within Assam. The protesters, during the rally at Bhebarghat Maidan in the town, vowed to give an “appropriate reply” if the government conceded to the demand for a separate state for Bodos.
A cycle procession was also taken out to create public awareness against a separate Bodoland state.