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Panel to look into Bodoland demand

Feb. 27: The Centre today set up an expert committee to study and examine the demand for Bodoland state to be carved out of Assam.

The one-man expert committee of former Union home secretary G.K. Pillai will submit a report in nine months after consulting all sections of society on the viability of creating Bodoland.

The swift step by the government is ostensibly seen as a move to buy time as voices over separate states become shriller.

A 12-member Bodo delegation, comprising representatives from Absu, Peoples Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement, United Democratic Peoples’ Front and the Bodoland Peoples Progressive Front, are in Delhi for the talks.

The Bodo National Conference (BNC) and the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) welcomed the formation of committee while the All Bodo Students Union (Absu) and its allied organisations rejected it.

BNC general secretary and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) deputy chief Kampa Borgoyary said the committee was formed following discussions among representatives of the Centre, the Assam government and the BTC.

“The Bodoland state would be formed based on the recommendations of the expert committee,” Borgoyary said.

A four-member BPF group called on Union home secretary Anil Goswami even as the order to set up the committee was set up.

“We are very happy that a process has begun,” said BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary.

The lone Bodo Lok Sabha MP Sansuma Khunggur Bwiswmuthiary also welcomed the move. He believes only the creation of Bodoland can solve the imbroglio.

He thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde for taking “prompt initiatives to set up and notify an expert committee” to deal with the long-pending issue with positivity and magnanimity.

Absu president Pramod Boro said there was no justification in forming an expert committee to study the feasibility of Bodoland, which awaits creation for over 40 years. He said Bodoland was not formed though several states were created in the past four decades, the latest being Telangana. He warned that any further discrimination would not be tolerated.

Absu and its allied organisations will meet Shinde tomorrow. This will be the first time since talks over Bodoland started that the Union home minister will participate. The last round of talks on Friday last had remained inconclusive with the Bodo groups demanding Shinde’s presence during the talks.

Boro, who terms the committee an insufficient measure, will press for a firm commitment on Bodoland, just as the Telangana demand has been satisfied, during the meet.

He warned of “widespread protest” if the Centre fails to announce a “policy on creating Bodoland” tomorrow. He said the Absu would launch a 100-hour train blockade in March, followed by 500 and 1,000-hour blockades. Absu is organising a mass gathering at Kokrajhar on the Sunday.

Bodo outfits had intensified their agitation for “Bodoland” after the Centre decided to create Telangana.

They are unhappy with the current arrangement of an autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), which was set up in 2003 after signing of the Bodo Accord following years of violence.

The Bodoland Territorial Areas District witnessed ethnic clashes between the Bodos and Muslims in 2012 that killed over a hundred people. The inter-community friction in this area will also be part of the study by Pillai, sources said.

Like the Bodo groups, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) is also camping in Delhi. Both statehood protagonists argue that their demands are old and as important as Telangana. “If Telangana bill can be passed by the two major parties agreeing to it, then Gorkhaland can also be cleared. For starters, there could at least be a committee like the G.K. Pillai-led committee for Bodoland which could reflect the government’s commitment,” said Gorkhaland Study Group member and journalist Swaraj Thapa.

GJM general secretary Roshan Giri and senior leaders want to meet Shinde and senior BJP leaders.