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Cloud on Bodoland talks

Guwahati, March 3: The Centre is yet to lay down the terms of reference of the single-man committee headed by former Union home secretary G.K. Pillai to evaluate the feasibility of a proposed “Bodoland”— a separate state carved out of Assam.

Pillai who has dealt with issues concerning the Northeast in his earlier stint as joint secretary (Northeast) in the home ministry, today said he was yet to see the terms of reference of the committee.

The committee was set up and notified on February 27.

“I still don’t know what the terms of reference are since these are yet to be issued,” he told The Telegraph over phone when asked what the committee was mandated to do.

“The first notice (of February 27) only speaks of eliciting views of different sections of people on the subject for which I was supposed to visit Kokrajhar tomorrow,” he said.

The visit now, however, stands cancelled because of “logistic” constraints.

Pillai told this correspondent that the terms of reference could be on the lines of those set out for the five-member committee on the Telangana issue.

The committee was asked to study the then situation in Andhra Pradesh in the backdrop of the demand for a Telangana state as well as a demand for retaining Andhra Pradesh’s boundary.

Sources said the Centre had set up the committee on “Bodoland” only to ensure the elections pass off peacefully. “There is no real hurry to issue the terms of reference just now... the immediate goal has been achieved in so far as the mainline pro-statehood groups are concerned,” one of them said.

The Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), which is in power in the Bodoland Territorial Council and its allied organisations, had planned a “grand welcome” for Pillai tomorrow, while some other groups, including the influential All Bodo Students’ Union (Absu), had brushed aside the committee as being of no consequence since the demand for “Bodoland” was old and thus there was little left for the panel to ascertain.

The BPF’s Rajya Sabha MP, Biswajit Daimary, told The Telegraph that all should express their views before the panel. “Let them say whatever they wish, but why oppose the committee? For instance, the NDFB (P) is in negotiations with the Centre and nobody is opposing it; so why does it oppose the single-man committee?” he asked, while suggesting all of them (the Absu axis) could at least meet the committee and try and secure an assurance on a separate state.

He also felt the state government ought to play a pro-active role to ensure the committee fulfils its mandate. “After all, the Assam government was a party to the tripartite talks during which the decision to constitute the committee was taken,” he said.

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