| Members of Sanmilita Janagosthiya Sangram Samiti stage a hunger strike in Guwahati on Monday. Picture by UB Photos |
Guwahati, Nov. 25: Several non-Bodo groups today moved Assam governor J.B. Patnaik, seeking his intervention to check the increasing incidents of extortion, abduction and violence in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD), including the recent killing of two persons in Baksa district.
Sanmilita Janagosthiyo Sangram Samiti, an umbrella organisation of non-Bodo groups, today staged a four-hour hunger strike from 11am near Raj Bhavan here to demand exclusion of villages with more than 50 per cent non-Bodo population from the BTAD and safety and security of non-Bodos living in the districts.
The organisation submitted a memorandum to Patnaik, demanding a review of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) that was created in 2003. It demanded that a round-table conference should be organised, comprising all communities living in the council area, for establishing long-lasting peace.
“The Centre had amended the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and created BTC to end violence in the area but it has not helped the people. Instead, non-Bodos, comprising 80 per cent of the total population, have been continuously attacked, displaced and even killed by people having support from those in power in the council. Non-Bodos are forced to pay extortion money and those refusing to do so are attacked and killed frequently,” the Samiti’s chief convener, Brojen Mahanta, told The Telegraph here.
The BTC, led by former BLT leader Hagrama Mohilary, was created after years of armed movement by the now disbanded Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT). But this has not brought peace to the area. Non-Bodo groups complain of discrimination by the BTC administration. In July last year, riots broke out in the area between the Bodos and migrants, killing hundreds and displacing thousands.
A lull followed, but the BTAD turned tense again with Bodo groups intensifying their agitation for the creation of a separate Bodoland state.
Non-Bodo groups are opposing the statehood demand. Instead, they want exclusion of around 1,000 villages, having less than 50 per cent Bodo population, from the BTAD.
The Samiti today sought the governor’s intervention to ensure proper rehabilitation of those displaced during the riots and security for non-Bodos living in the BTAD.
“When non-Bodo groups oppose the violence, their leaders are targeted and killed. Two non-Bodo leaders, Mohan Das and Pankaj Das, were killed at Dumuni in Baksa district on October 30,” Mahanta said. The Samiti had demanded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for the family of the victims.
Retired schoolteacher Badan Chandra Deka of Tokankata village in Baksa district, about 150km from here, who joined today’s protest, said most (non-Bodo) government employees in the BTAD are forced to pay a monthly extortion by various groups in the BTAD.
“We are permanent residents but are fed up with the violence in the area,” he added. While the non-Bodos accuse the Bodos for the violence, KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi had recently said it was the outcome of growing pressure of migrants from Bangladesh, Bihar and Bengal on land and resources of the indigenous population.