Absu activists during a demonstration for statehood in Kokrajhar district. File picture
New Delhi, Feb. 21: A day after the Telangana bill was passed in Parliament, pro-Bodoland groups today served an ultimatum to the Centre to create a separate state for the Bodos.
They set February 27, the day Bodo students will meet Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, as the deadline for the government to announce a “policy on creating Bodoland”.
At a tripartite meeting with pro-Bodoland groups today, the government took a swift decision to set up a one-man committee to look into the viability of Bodoland state and issues related to land. The committee is likely to be headed by former Union home secretary G.K. Pillai, home ministry sources said.
However, the problem is far from over, as the agitators appear firm.
“We told the Centre, now that Telangana is created tell us whether you are giving Bodoland or not. Further discrimination will not be tolerated,” All Bodo Students Union (Absu) president Pramod Boro told The Telegraph after a meeting with officials of the Union home ministry and the Assam government.
“We are happy that despite stiff opposition from the Andhra Pradesh government, the UPA government created Telangana. This opens the door for Bodoland,” said Jebraram Muchahary, leader of the People’s Joint Action Committee for Boroland Movement.
Muchahary, who is cynical of a committee, has demanded setting up of a group of ministers.
Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) leader Hagrama Mohilary said the notification for the committee was likely to be issued by Tuesday. Muchahary has objected to inclusion of political parties like the BPF in the tripartite meeting.
The groups have warned the Centre that if it does not adhere to the deadline, they would launch a 100-hour train blockade by March, followed by a 1,000-hour blockade. The students said they understood the inconvenience to people at large but were left with no alternative.
Government officials asked the groups to be patient as general elections were round the corner and a new government would take over soon.
The home ministry assured Absu and other groups of another tripartite meeting with them and the Assam government on February 27 in the presence of Shinde. The home minister will be expected to spell out a “policy” on bifurcation of Assam since Telangana has been created. He is, however, unlikely to have a concrete answer as he has already turned down requests for a Second States Reorganisation Commission and may face fresh unrest.
“If they do not take a decision on February 27, then we will see. They can arrest us, what else? Please be ready to stop the movement and we will be ready to go ahead with it,” warned Boro.
Bodo groups feel the Centre has formed new states in “middle and north India”. With the formation of Telangana, the south has been taken care of. Boro said it was now the turn of the Northeast, as Bodoland awaits creation for over 40 years.
The Centre is quite concerned about the Bodoland agitation as it impacts the most strategic of roads and rail network that connects Northeast with the rest of India. The Bodo belt not only borders Bhutan, it is also close to the Bangladesh border, making it important for the armed forces as well.
BPF MP Biswajit Daimary had raised the issue in Rajya Sabha yesterday while participating in the debate on Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2014. He said the Centre must consider the demand for Bodoland as it had showered attention on Telangana.
There has been no word of opposition from Assam’s Congress MPs yet in the way Trinamul Congress protested against the Telangana bill. One of the reasons for Trinamul’s opposition to Telangana is the apprehension that the demand for Gorkhaland may get a fillip.
Within the security establishment there is consternation especially because the political leadership had been warned of such a situation if it went ahead with Telangana. Creation of Telangana has lifted the taboo on new states and the Bodos are the first ones moving to capitalise on it.
Till now, the Centre had a standard answer on request for creation of new states: we do not have such a policy. But as far as agitating groups are concerned, the moratorium on new states was revoked the moment the Congress Working Committee cleared creation of Telangana last year.