The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong for Bodo council rethink

Guwahati, Sept. 15: The Assam PCC today put a question mark on the constitution of the proposed Bodoland Territorial Council by demanding an “in-depth examination” of the issue by the Tarun Gogoi government before it takes a decision.

Coming from the PCC, the demand has landed the Gogoi government in a no-win situation at a time when Bodo groups are clamouring for prompt creation of a council to replace the Bodoland Autonomous Committee. The Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), which is holding talks with the Centre, has threatened to take up arms again if there is further delay in constituting the new council.

The PCC’s demand for a review was raised at the first executive body meeting of the newly constituted body, headed by Paban Singh Ghatowar. The committee later adopted a resolution in this regard. To make matters worse for the Gogoi government, the PCC urged it to revive the defunct Bodoland Autonomous Council, which has already been rejected by the Bodo groups, including the All-Bodo Students’ Union (Absu).

Both Absu and the Bodo People’s Action Committee (BPAC) have threatened to revive the movement for statehood if a formal announcement on creation of the BTC is not made forthwith. The Absu-BPAC combine has already rejected the BAC, set up in accordance with Bodo Accord signed in 1993.

PCC chief spokesman Silvius Condpan said the party would impress upon the state government to take note of the apprehensions of non-Bodo people regarding protection of their rights in the proposed BTC. “We have come to know that the Central government has sought the opinion of the state government on the matter. So the PCC is of the opinion that the entire issue should be discussed in detail before a decision is taken,” he added.

State health minister and chairman of the four-member Cabinet sub-committee Bhumidhar Barman said that the Centre had sought the opinion of the state government regarding clauses to be inserted in the draft proposal for the BTC — the protection measures for the non-Bodos. “We have already started the process and a final decision would be taken after the arrival of the chief minister, who is undergoing treatment in New Delhi,” Barman said.

About the PCC demand for revival of the BAC, Barman said since the creation of the BTC “is going take some time”, it has become necessary to check “misuse of funds” provided to the council.

He pointed out that since three or four persons are running the council, there has been blatant misuse of government funds provided to the BAC. “So till the BTC is created, the BAC should be activated by filling up the vacant posts,” he added.

The BTC issue was today discussed by the Governor, Lt. Gen. (retd) S.K. Sinha, and Gogoi when the former visited the AIIMS to enquire about the chief minister’s health, his press secretary Bichitra Choudhury told The Telegraph over the phone.

The state Cabinet had granted its approval to creation of the proposed BTC in its meeting held on February 13. A two-member delegation of the BLT had called on deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani on September 10 and expressed concern over the delay in solving the Bodo problem.

Advani had assured the delegation that the problem would be solved soon. He even convened a ministerial meeting on September 13, but it did not take place on that day because Union human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi was not in New Delhi. The meeting is likely to be held next week, home ministry sources said.

The Sanmilita Janagosthiya Sangram Samiti has called a 36-hour rail blockade from October 7 in protest against the move to constitute a territorial council.

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