Bodo peace pact inked
The Centre on Monday signed a “fresh” Bodo Peace Accord in Delhi, putting an “end” to the decades-long movement for a Bodoland state but changing the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) to Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) with additional political and economic bonanza.
The accord also made Bodo language the official associate language of the state besides Assamese.
The government signed the accord with the four factions (Gobinda Basumatary, Ranjan Daimari, Dhiren Boro and Saoraigwra) of National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), one of the dreaded militant outfits of Assam, the All Bodo Students’ Union (Absu), which has been spearheading the movement for Bodoland state since 1972, and the United Bodo People’s Organisation, a civil society group. The move is expected to boost peace in the Northeast.
The tripartite agreement was signed in the presence of Union home minister Amit Shah, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, joint secretary (Northeast) in the Union home ministry Satyendra Garg and Assam chief secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna. Sonowal, Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) chief Hagrama Mohilary signed the accord as witnesses.
Shah said the “historic” accord would bring a permanent solution to the decades-old problems of the Bodo community. “This agreement aims for Akhand Assam (undivided Assam), to facilitate all-round development of the Bodo areas, their language and culture without compromising the territorial integrity of Assam,” he said.
Mentioning that the decades-long Bodo movement claimed over 4,000 lives, he said the agreement would bring permanent peace in the region. Shah said the primary objectives of the treaty were to augment the area and powers of the BTC and streamline its functioning, to address issues relating to Bodos residing outside BTAD, to promote and protect social, cultural, linguistic and ethnic identities of Bodos, to provide legislative safeguards for land rights of tribals, to ensure accelerated development of tribal areas and to rehabilitate members of NDFB factions.
Shah announced a special development package of Rs 1,500 crore for the next three years for areas under the BTC. The agreement said, “The Assam government may earmark a sum of Rs 250 crore per annum for a period of three years for the development of the area under BTC. The Centre may contribute an additional amount of Rs 250 crore per annum for the same period.”
A highlight of the pact is that there is no mention of a separate Bodoland state, in the memorandum of settlement (MoS) or even media reaction of the signatories, suggesting that the Bodo groups may have given up on the statehood demand or have put it on the backburner for now “in the interest of peace and development”.
A statement by Sonowal in the evening categorically said the new pact would be implemented while keeping the territorial integrity of Assam intact, thereby allaying the fears of those opposed to the further bifurcation of the state. “All the clauses in the agreement would be executed with the support of all stakeholders and no community living in Assam should be worried about the pact,” Sonowal said.
This is the third treaty to be signed with Bodo groups since 1993. On February 20, 1993, a memorandum of settlement (Bodo Accord) was signed in Guwahati, paving the way for setting up the Bodoland Autonomous Council. However, the accord allegedly did not meet the
demands of the community and an armed movement for
a separate “Bodoland” ensued.
Ten years later, on February 10, 2003, the Assam government, the Centre and the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) signed another memorandum of settlement to form the present Bodoland Territorial Council, which includes Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri districts. The Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), which runs the BTC, is the political avatar of the disbanded BLT.
According to the latest accord, the NDFB factions will abjure the path of violence, surrender their weapons and disband their armed organisations within a month of signing the deal.
Hailing the Accord as “historic”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Ushering in a new dawn of peace, harmony and togetherness! Today is a very special day for India. The Accord with Bodo groups, which has been inked today will lead to transformative results for the Bodo people.”
He said the Bodo Accord inked today stands out for many reasons. It successfully brings together the leading stakeholders under one framework. Those who were previously associated with armed resistance groups will now be entering the mainstream and contributing to our nation’s progress.
A least 1,550 NDFB cadres will surrender on January 30 with 130 weapons.
A joint monitoring committee will be constituted with representatives from the Union home ministry, state government, BTC and other Bodo organisations to monitor the implementation of the agreement.