The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bodo leaders swim in euphoria

Kokrajhar, Feb. 11: Fresh from a mission well-accomplished, the signatories to the new Bodo accord today returned home to a welcome fit for heroes.

The leaders’ return was the icing on the cake for the Bodo community, which has not stopped rejoicing since the accord was signed yesterday, paving the way for the creation of a Bodoland Territorial Council.

Though a bandh called by the Sanmilita Janagosthiya Sangram Samiti affected parts of Bongaigaon district, there was no mistaking the sense of elation throughout the troubled Bodo heartland over the fulfilment of a long-cherished dream.

As the helicopter carrying the six top leaders of the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) and the All-Bodo Students’ Union (Absu) landed at the Kokrajhar District Sports Association playground, the crowd that had milled there since morning gave the team a standing ovation.

The leaders were escorted by a contingent of BLT cadre in fatigues, followed by boys and girls in traditional attire, from the makeshift helipad to the Kokrajhar Higher Secondary School Playground. Hundreds of people lined up on either side of the road to cheer the leaders.

BLT chairman Hagrama Basumatary said the new administrative set-up would not only fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the Bodo community, but also ensure that the non-Bodo people living in the area got “equal status and honour”.

Overwhelmed by the sight of the cheering crowd, BLT publicity secretary Mainao Daimari said, “While pursuing the armed struggle, we did not have any idea whether what we were doing was good or bad. But seeing the huge turnout here to celebrate the signing of the accord, we are convinced that we have really done something good for the people.”

Rajya Sabha member Urkhao Gwra Brahma, also adviser to the Absu, said the Bodo community would be able to live with dignity under the BTC. “For a long period, the Bodos had been treated as second class citizens. The BTC, which is to be created in accordance with the provisions of the Sixth Schedule, will give us rights and privileges enjoyed by other communities.”

Before the reception here, the Bodo leaders got an indication of what to expect when hundreds greeted them on their arrival at the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati. Six of them then boarded a helicopter, while the rest came here in a convoy of about 50 vehicles, escorted by BLT cadre and Absu activists.

Huge gates with welcome messages had been erected at several places in Rangiya, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Nalbari and Kokrajhar. At all these places there were people waiting on either side of the road to welcome their leaders.

The sole hitch was the bandh called by the SJSS, a federation of 19 non-Bodo organisations opposed to the creation of a new administrative set-up. The bandh, however, had an impact only in pockets of Bongaigaon district.

SJSS activists had attempted to take out a procession in Rangiya in the morning, but were taken into police custody. The protesters were released later in the day.

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