| .K. Advani being flanked by (from left) governor Lt Gen. (retd) Ajai Singh, Bodoland Territorial Area District deputy chief executive member Chandan Brahma, chief executive member Hagrama Basumatary, Tarun Gogoi and C.P. Thakur after the oath-taking ceremony in Kokrajhar on Sunday. Picture by Biju Boro
Debargaon (Kokrajhar), Dec. 7: The wheel today turned full circle for the disbanded Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), transforming their leaders from Kalashnikov-toting militants to administrators on whose shoulders rest the hopes of a community thirsting for peace and development.
Among the witnesses to this transition was deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani, who described the moment as “the happiest” in his political career. It was at this very venue, seven years ago, that a group of Bodo youth had gathered to give birth to the militant group they disbanded yesterday.
Former BLT chairman Hagrama Basumatary leads the 12-member interim council that will administer the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD). He used his original surname, Mahilary, while taking the oath of office in front of a mammoth gathering.
Apart from Advani, Governor Lt Gen. (retd) Ajai Singh and chief minister Tarun Gogoi were present at the rally.
The deputy Prime Minister said the metamorphosis of the BLT leadership into administrators was a message to militant groups active across the country that the people they profess to represent stand to gain if they follow the Bodo example. He said the Planning Commission would make special plan allocations to the BTAD in addition to the annual allocation to the state.
Advani made a commitment to set up a 100-bed hospital and a nursing institute in the area soon. He laid the foundation stone of the another institution, a central institute of technology, immediately on arrival.
Though the BLT leadership has been telling the 2,630 militants who laid down arms that they should not expect a rehabilitation package in return, the deputy Prime Minister said both Delhi and Dispur would create employment avenues for them. The huge crowd cheered the announcement.
At a news conference later, Advani said Delhi would hold a dialogue only with those militant groups that conveyed their willingness to abjure violence, as the BLT had done in 1999.
On whether an exception would be made for the Ulfa, he said the same condition applied to all militant groups.
In his speech at the rally, the chief minister urged the deputy Prime Minister to initiate a special recruitment drive by the army and the paramilitary forces for the benefit of the surrendered Bodo militants. He said Assam police would undertake a similar recruitment drive.
The chief minister made a case for a special economic package for development of education and roads in the BTAD.
Gogoi said after the rally that the state government would examine the possibility of raising a Bodo regiment of the army with surrendered BLT cadre and forward the proposal to Delhi if it was found feasible.
Amid the enthusiasm, the governor sounded a note of caution, saying security would continue to be a source of concern in the BTAD for some time. He urged the interim council to create an environment for “democratic activities” and ensure that an election is held within six months to elect a full-fledged council in accordance with the provisions of the Bodo accord.
Both Advani and Gogoi assured implementation of each clause of the accord with the BLT.
The agreement was signed on February 10, nearly a decade after the first Bodo accord between the All-Bodo Students Union-Bodo People’s Action Committee combine and the Centre and the state. Bodo groups disowned the previous accord, signed in 1993, because the Centre and the state government failed to implement it in toto.
Fresh from a mission accomplished well, the signatories to the February 10 accord returned home from Delhi to a welcome fit for heroes. Basumatary then said the new administrative set-up would not only fulfil the aspirations of the Bodo community, but also ensure that the non-Bodo people living in the area enjoyed “equal status”.