The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Anti-pact lobby steps up heat

Kokrajhar, Feb. 12: Celebrations over the signing of a new Bodo accord had barely subsided when the Sanmilita Janagosthiya Sangram Samiti (SJSS), a confederation of 18 non-Bodo organisations opposed to the pact, set the stage for another confrontation by calling a 36-hour Assam bandh from 5 pm tomorrow.

The announcement came even as the signatories to the accord were engaged in discussions to select the leader of the new administrative set-up, to be called the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).

In a statement issued after a meeting in Pathsala, the SJSS leadership said they would not allow the accord to be implemented. “The accord was signed without taking the non-Bodo people into confidence.”

It is not the first time that the SJSS has called a bandh, but the timing of the one that begins tomorrow is cause for concern. The 35th annual conference of the influential All-Bodo Students’ Union (Absu) is scheduled to get under way at Bahargaon on Friday and any form of disruption by the non-Bodos could lead to a catastrophic clash.

The SJSS termed the signing of the accord a “politically destructive process” initiated by the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government. It threatened to call a 100-hour bandh if the Centre and the state government attempted to “impose an ordinance” or move a Bill in Parliament to implement the Bodo accord.

The confederation of non-Bodo organisations asked its supporters to signal the beginning of a new phase of agitation by raising ranadhani (war cry) to the accompaniment of percussion instruments.

While the SJSS searched for ways to make itself heard, Bodo leaders remained immersed in the task of giving shape to a council on which rests the hopes and aspirations of the entire community.

Hagrama Basumatary, chairman of the Bodo Liberation Tigers, said all activists of his organisation would surrender their weapons within a week of the proposed interim council being constituted.

He said the weapons would be surrendered during a “victory ceremony” in Kokrajhar. Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, the state’s Governor, Lt. Gen. (retd) S.K. Sinha, and the chief minister will attend the ceremony, he said.

All eyes are now on Absu’s annual conference, which is expected to decide who will lead the territorial council. “The selection of the BTC chief will be done on the basis of what representatives of all sections of society say at the conference,” the BLT’s publicity secretary, Mainao Daimary, said.

Absu president Rabiram Narzary said his organisation would henceforth focus on education and the social and economic problems of the Bodos. These issues had been pushed under the carpet because the Bodo leadership was preoccupied with political problems, he added.

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