| BLT cadre flash the victory sign at the mass surrender ceremony. Picture by Eastern Projections
Kokrajhar, Dec. 6: New Delhi and Dispur picked the mass surrender ceremony of the militant Bodo Liberation Tigers here today to showcase the denouement of the Bodo imbroglio and woo the Ulfa and National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) to sit for peace talks.
The ceremony at the Kokrajhar District Sports Association ground became a perfect platform for Union minister of state for home Swami Chinmayanand and Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi to make a strong case for all-round peace on the eve of the formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council.
Chief minister Gogoi appealed to the Ulfa, the NDFB, the United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) and other militant outfits to bid farewell to arms and follow the path shown by the BLT if they really sought the development of Assam.
Echoing similar sentiments, Chinmayanand assured that the Centre would take proper care of the surrendered BLT cadre. He said development work under the BTC would be completed in quick time.
BLT chairman Hagrama Basumatary, who laid down an AK-47 before the chief minister, formally declared the disbanding of the outfit, pulling down the curtains on a seven-year armed struggle that kept the Bodo belt on the boil. The BLT was raised at Debargaon in Kokrajhar on June 18, 1996.
The BLT chief said the outfit has always sought an amicable solution within the framework of the Constitution.
After the ceremony, Gogoi rushed back to Guwahati to receive deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, who will attend the oath-taking ceremony of a 12-member interim BTC panel headed by the BLT chief tomorrow.
The BLT signed a new Bodo Accord on February 10, 2003, with the Centre and the state government after 30 rounds of discussions. The informal talks started in 1999 and the formal ceasefire was declared on March 15, 2000.
In his short speech as chief guest of the ceremony, Gogoi said December 6, 2003, would go down in the state’s history as a “memorable day” because a new chapter has been added with the BLT cadre bidding farewell to arms for peace and prosperity.
Altogether 2,630 cadre in battle fatigues laid down arms, including 508 assorted weapons and 17,137 different ammunition, before Swami and Gogoi.
The weapons included 64 AK-47 rifles, 13 US-made carbines, 9mm M-16 rifles, seven M-21 rifles, 138 .303 rifles, 110 handmade cartridge guns, 24 sten guns, 72 35mm grenades, 34 Chinese grenades, three light machine guns, 16 9mm carbines and different types of pistols.
Basumatary appealed to the people to “accept us as one among them and ask for their forgiveness for past mistakes, if any”. Assuring that his cadre would continue to assist in maintaining law and order, he requested Gogoi to give special attention in ensuring their security.
“The Bodo people now hope for a new era of peace and development. However, there are threats from different directions as outfits like the NDFB and Ulfa have given up their violent activities,” he said.
He justified the formation of the BLT, saying the outfit was born to safeguard the interests of Bodo people as the accord of 1993 had failed to deliver.
Basumatary thanked all the Bodo organisations, including the All Bodo Students Union (Absu), for their support in the signing of the new accord. He also welcomed the announcement by Swami Chinmayanand that the Bodo language would be recognised under the Eight Schedule.