New Delhi, Sept.12: The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Progressive) today adhered to the Telangana-linked demand for Bodoland state, but also asked for Rs 8,000 crore to develop four “Bodoland” districts while talks continue on statehood.
To enable negotiations, the government extended the suspension of operations (SoO) with NDFB (P) by three months from September 30 to December 31 today. The next round of talks will be held in end-October.
NDFB (P) general secretary Gobinda Basumatary told reporters here that the talks were “positive”. However, he stuck to the statehood demand.
The Centre’s principal argument with the group revolved around the financial viability of the proposed Bodoland.
The NDFB asked the government to allocate Rs 200 crore annually to each of the four “Bodoland” districts for a period of 10 years, sources told The Telegraph.
Telangana once again became a rallying point for the outfit. Basumatary told government officials that since Telangana had been declared by the Congress Working Committee, statehood for Bodoland would have to be met. The statehood demand has also been echoed forcefully by the All Bodo Students Union also in talks held last month.
Central government officials are understood to have argued that financial viability was a major hurdle in the creation of Bodoland. Resource-rich Telangana is financially viable but Bodoland does not have avenues to generate its own resources, officials are known to have told the NDFB team.
“We told them that in Dima Hasao there are 6,500 staff under the council and salaries were pending since November,” said a home ministry official.
Today’s parleys were headed on the government’s side by joint secretary (Northeast) in the ministry of home affairs, Shambhu Singh, and intelligence officials. The Assam government was represented by state home secretary G.D. Tripathi and ADG (Special Branch) Pallab Bhattacharyya.
As various groups in Assam and Bengal turned restive in the light of declaration of Telangana’s formation, the Centre was forced to get into talks mode. Demands for Bodoland, Kamtapur and a Karbi-Dimasa hill state have been reactivated.
Officials, however, concede that the government is merely buying more time, as neither the Centre nor the Assam government intend to “break the state”.
In another development, the All BTC Bengali Youth Students' Federation submitted a memorandum to Assam governor J.B. Patnaik yesterday seeking protection for “seven lakh Bengali Hindus living in the Bodo belt” from the stepped-up extortion drive launched in BTAD by the NDFB’s Songbijit faction.
In the memorandum, the federation said the outfit had asked the Hindu Bengalis who couldn’t pay them money to leave BTAD immediately. They said extortion and kidnapping had become rampant in BTAD, with around 11 militant groups indulging in illegal activities.
The federation called for special operations against the cadres of the Songbijit faction, which according to them, is carrying out rampant extortion and kidnappings in BTAD and in most of these cases, Hindu Bengalis have been targeted. “Altogether 30 persons have been kidnapped in BTAD in the past year,” the memorandum said.
The federation demanded seizure of all illegal arms and ammunition in BTAD and sealing of the porous India-Bhutan border to prevent the militants from crossing over to India.
They urged the governor to ensure deployment of adequate security personnel in the four BTAD districts and demanded an inquiry by a Supreme Court or high court judge into the alleged ploy to drive out Hindu Bengalis from BTAD.