New Delhi, Sept. 3: The All Koch Rajbongshi Students Union (AKRSU) today warned that if the government fails to heed its democratic protests for a separate state, it might turn to arms.
The threat comes a day after the Joint Action Committee for Autonomous State of the Karbis and Dimasas warned that Karbi Anglong might become restive if its demand for an autonomous state in Assam under Article 244A was not met.
Today was the second day of tripartite talks between Delhi, Dispur and groups from Assam demanding states, autonomous or separate. Yesterday, the government held talks with Karbi and Dimasa groups.
The Koch Rajbongshis of Assam and West Bengal are demanding a Kamtapur state, comprising 15 districts of Assam and six districts of north Bengal. The demand is pegged on the claim that after the Koch kingdom merged with India in 1949, the government of India had promised to make it a ‘C’ category state according to an agreement with the Union government on August 28, 1949.
“If we do not get our rights through democratic means as we have tried, we will take up arms,” AKRSU president Biswajit Ray warned after the meeting with officials here. “We are not willing to wait for one to three years as the government has told us. We want a speedy settlement,” he added.
Ray said his community had been divided into Assam, Bengal and Bangladesh in a divide-and-rule game by governments.
The Koch Rajbongshis have been demanding Scheduled Tribe status and statehood since 1962. One of the first prolonged protests of the community in recent years was in August 2009 in Delhi when the Greater Cooch Behar People’s Association staged a yearlong protest at Jantar Mantar. But the government did not engage in talks with them.
Today, nearly 50 AKRSU members turned up at the government-owned Hotel Ashok here in their traditional yellow and green dresses.
The meeting was attended by senior officials of the Union home ministry, including joint secretary Shambhu Singh, officials of the Assam government, and officials and community representatives Nalini Chandra Ray and Shibaji Sarkar from West Bengal.
The officials first met AKRSU and then delegates of a conglomeration under the banner of Koch Rajbongshi Sanmilita Mahasabha, led by Bireswar Saikia.
The officials tried to convince Koch Rajbongshi leaders to re-think about their demand for a “C” category state.
Assam home secretary Mukti Gogoi said the talks were positive and the government had asked the groups for details of their demand like the number of villages and other sustainability criteria.
In Assam, the demands for new states of Kamtapur, Bodoland and an autonomous state combining Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts have gained momentum after the Centre declared on June 30 that it was ready to carve Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh.
Sources said the complexity of the problem in Assam was borne out of the fact that Kamtapur also includes areas claimed by Bodo groups.
Asked about the overlapping of the proposed Kamtapur and Bodoland states in Assam, Ray said after the meeting that everyone had the right to protest in a democracy. Putting the ball in the Centre’s court, he said, “The government of India will decide which demand is justified.”
Government representatives will meet groups demanding “Bodoland” tomorrow and the following day.
The Assam government, meanwhile, is for a “united family”, as chief minister Tarun Gogoi has said.