| Students of Osmania University celebrate the passage of the Telangana bill iin Hyderabad on Tuesday. (PTI) |
Feb. 18: The passing of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill that will create Telangana in the Lok Sabha today will not only give a fresh fillip to similar demands in the Northeast but could put the region on the boil again.
The reactions of those agitating for separate states and those opposed to it suggest as much because of the hope and despair the development has triggered.
Bodo groups warned the Centre to meet their demand for a separate state though the bedlam in Lok Sabha did not allow lone Bodo MP Sansuma Bwiswmuthiary to make a speech on his argument for Bodoland for the second day today. The groups argue that their demand is 40 years old and deserves the same treatment as Telangana.
All Bodo Students’ Union (Absu) president Pramod Boro said the demand for Bodoland would not be compromised under any circumstances and passing of the Telangana bill had only strengthened their resolve.
“We congratulate the people of Telangana and wish it will be a peaceful state but we warn the government of India that if it does not come up with a concrete idea on February 21, there will be a 100-hour rail roko,” he told The Telegraph.
Boro said if the third round of tripartite talks on Friday does not throw up a concrete result, there would be widespread protests in mid-March. Absu is waiting for the classes X and XII examinations to conclude in the second week of March. If the 100-hour railway disruption does not help, Absu will follow it up with 500-hour and 1,000-hour protests, he warned.
The students have the backing of the Bodo People’s Progressive Front, the United Democratic People’s Front and the NDFB (Progressive).
The convener of the Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement, Zebraram Mushhary, said the onus was now on the Centre to do justice to the Bodos’ demand for a separate state.
Boro, however, dismissed Bodo People’s Front MP Bwiswmuthiary protests, saying the BPF was a “ruling party”.
There are also demands in Assam for a Kamtapur state and one for Dimasa and Karbi ethnic groups.
The Biswajit Ray and Hiteswar Barman groups of All Koch-Rajbongshi Students’ Union welcomed the development and hoped the Centre would now address their demand for a separate Kamtapur. The Bongaigaon district Koch-Rajbonshi National Forum president Bimal Barman said, “If the Kamtapur issue does not get priority now, it would mean the UPA government gave its nod to Telangana only for vote-bank politics.”
The Hills State Democratic Party said failure to consider the legitimate statehood demands of the indigenous population of the Northeast could threaten the integrity of the nation and any delay could only compound the scenario.
HSDP general secretary Kanjang Teron said Telangana was a big victory for those struggling for a separate identity. “Unfortunately, statehood demands get a good response in other parts of India but when it comes to the Northeast, the government is mysteriously silent. If this continues for long, it will not take much time to cut off the chicken’s neck”. The Northeast is linked to the rest of the country through the narrow Siliguri corridor, referred to as the chicken’s neck.
Several Assam MPs, however, felt that there was no “viability” of more division of Assam. “Assam has been divided several times with the formation of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram. You should not divide it further,” former DoNER minister Bijoy Krishna Handique said.
In Meghalaya, too, there is a demand for two states — Khasi-Jaintia and Garoland. Terming the development as “inspiring”, Hill State People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Goldenstar Nonglong said, “We have been fighting for a separate Khasi-Jaintia state based on linguistic lines and will continue to do so.”
In Nagaland, the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) said it would vigorously pursue its demand for “Frontier Nagaland” till it was achieved. Former ENPO president and adviser Pongon Phom said, “India should have more than 30-40 states. When the Centre can carve out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, it can also carve out Frontier Nagaland from Nagaland.” The state government has rejected the demand.
Government sources concede that Telangana’s creation may also be a new point the NSCN (I-M) could introduce for pushing Nagalim. The Centre and Manipur government are for territorial integrity of Manipur not only for political but also for strategic reasons.
There was mixed response to the development in Manipur. George Guite, publicity secretary of Kuki State Demand Committee, said, “We are not happy because the UPA government took up only the creation of Telangana, leaving others’ demands. We have decided to resume our struggle for a separate Kuki state within Manipur’s territory.”
CPI state secretary Moirangthem Nara Singh said, “We welcome the passing of the bill as our party has been fully supporting the demand for a separate state.”
BJP general secretary M. Aswinikumar was, however, unhappy. “The passing of the bill has denied the rights of the MLAs of the state as there is no consensus on bifurcating the state. There is a hidden agenda of the Congress to divide the state. Passing of the bill is undemocratic.”
The ruling CPM in Tripura reacted strongly to the “shady and dubious manner” in which the Telangana Bill was tabled and passed. Describing the issue as “unprecedented”, CPM spokesperson Gautam Das said the passing of the bill would set off a chain reaction and encourage fissiparous forces in the Northeast and in other parts of the country. There is a demand for a separate tribal state in Tripura.