| A jawan keeps vigil during curfew in Goreswar on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos |
Kokrajhar, May 6: Bodo organisations today called for an arms-free society and urged Dispur to seize all weapons, illegal and licensed, from citizens, including surrendered militants.
The Bodoland Peoples’ Progressive Front (BPPF), the main Opposition in Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), which governs the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD), which has witnessed carnage over the years, the latest being since May 1, said the Bodos had suffered most because of availability of illegal arms in Assam.
BPPF president Rabiram Narzary told reporters here today that over a hundred people, including 25 party workers, had become victims of illegal arms since 2006. He said the party has been long demanding seizure of all illegal arms but the government has not taken any step to root out the menace.
Narzary held the government and its machineries, civil society groups and intellectuals in the state equally responsible for the turmoil in the BTAD. “We approached the government seven times and also appealed to the governor, but everybody ignored our demands. Instead, they termed it an intra-community fight and suggested that we solve it ourselves. Had the government acted, this situation would not have arisen. Besides, when the BPPF and other Bodo organisations pleaded for seizure of illegal arms, no one came forward to support us, nobody cared. So intellectuals and organisations in the state are equally responsible for this.”
The BPPF also said though there was a widespread demand for seizing illegal arms in the BTAD, such arms were a statewide problem.
Narzary accused the state government of giving scope to militants to carry out illegal activities. Without taking names, he alleged that illegal arms were being used under political patronage.
“Surrendered militants throughout the state possess illegal arms and the government needs to plan seriously to seize these weapons. Mere operations for two to three months will not yield results, it needs long-term planning and action,” he said.
Narzary alleged that the present mayhem was just not the handiwork of militants. There was a political conspiracy behind it. He sought a thorough probe into the carnage.
The All Bodo Students’ Union (Absu) said 83 people were killed in 2008, 46 in 2009, about a dozen in 2010 and 102 in 2012, all because of easy availability of illegal arms in the Bodo area.
“The government has failed to safeguard citizens. Taking advantage of the weakness of law and its protectors, criminals are back in business. Everyone knows this except the administration,” Absu president Pramod Boro alleged. He called for an arms-free society by seizing all weapons, illegal or licensed, from civilians. He asked people to work towards a peaceful society. “A non-violent society with the philosophy of Gandhiji is the only way for us to gain in the region,” Boro said.
“We (the Absu) have been raising our voice against the series of incidents (killings) in the Bodo belt. We appealed to the Union home ministry and Dispur to take appropriate steps but none was taken and the situation went from bad to worse,” Boro said.
The All Assam Minorities Students’ Union (AAMSU) today submitted a memorandum to governor J.B. Patnaik, demanding dissolution of the BTC and arrest of its chief executive member and BPF president Hagrama Mohilary and BPF legislator and former minister Pramila Rani Brahma. It also demanded compensation of Rs 10 lakh and Rs 5 lakh each to the family members of victims and wounded besides seizure of all arms, legal and illegal, in the BTAD. Before submitting the memorandum, over 3,000 members and supporters of AAMSU demonstrated in front of Raj Bhavan in Guwahati.
“After the 2012 riots in Kokrajhar, an intelligence report revealed that there were over 5,000 AK-series rifles in the BTAD. The Centre and Dispur should take immediate steps to seize all arms, including those with surrendered militants,” AAMSU general secretary Azizur Rahman told The Telegraph.
AAMSU vice-president Ainuddin Ahmed said if their demands were not met, they would decide their next course of action in an executive meet.
The gravity of the matter was underlined when AICC secretary and sitting Congress legislator Bhupen Kumar Borah said, “There are hundreds of illegal AK-47 and AK-56 rifles in the BTAD was the report I had received while I was parliamentary secretary (home). It is high time a sustained campaign was launched to seize illegal arms,” he told The Telegraph in Guwahati this evening.
He said peace could return to the BTAD only if police were given a “free hand for three to four months” to recover illegal arms and if all political and social organisations cooperated with the police to restore normalcy.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi had yesterday turned down the demand to arm those affected by violence in BTAD for self-defence, following strong opposition from Bodo and non-Bodo organisations.
Security personnel today recovered three firearms, 45 rounds of ammunition and a grenade from BTAD.