Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal visited Kokrajhar on Wednesday to take stock of the preparations for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled visit on Friday to commemorate the recent signing of the Bodo Peace Accord.
However, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), which are spearheading the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) movement in the state and had previously warned of strong protests if Modi visits Assam, might not stage any protest this time.
Modi’s visit comes a week after the Centre signed a peace pact with four factions of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) and student and civil society groups of the Bodo community on January 27 to bring permanent peace to the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) area.
Inspecting the preparations, Sonowal said, “The Bodo Peace Accord ushered in a new lease of hope and enthusiasm among the people and the function will be organised to convey their gratitude to the Prime Minister. Modi has always given top priority to the development of the Northeast and he took this special step for peace and development in the region.”
The chief minister was accompanied by Assam cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, minister of state (independent charge) Pijush Hazarika, Rajya Sabha MP Biswajit Daimary, BTC chief Hagrama Mohilary, All Bodo Students’ Union (Absu) president Pramod Boro, state police top brass and other top officials.
Sonowal reiterated that people attending the function should not face any encumbrance. He said he has asked the organisers to take special steps towards this end.
Over five lakh people are expected to attend the ceremony at Jangkritai Fwtar near Kokrajhar, 216km from Guwahati.
This will be the Prime Minister’s first visit to Assam since the anti-CAA protests started in the state. In December 2019, a summit between Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, scheduled to be held in Guwahati, was cancelled because of the protests. Modi was also invited for the inauguration of the recently concluded Khelo India Youth Games in Guwahati but did not attend it. Ahead of the games, AASU and AJYCP had warned of strong protests if Modi visits Assam but this time both the groups have decided not to stage protests against Modi’s visit.
AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi told The Telegraph, “We are hopeful that the Accord will bring justice, peace and prosperity for people of the the Bodo community in the state. It’s a function of their celebration and AASU doesn’t want to intervene in it. AASU is against the Act and the Prime Minister’s imposition of the law upon us but we are not against our Bodo brothers and sisters. We believe all the ethnic groups of Assam, including the Bodos, are with us and will support our movement.”
AJYCP general secretary Palash Changmai said, “Since the function is for development of the BTC, we are yet to take a call on our actions. However, protests against CAA will continue.”
Modi is expected to arrive in Guwahati around 11am and then fly in a helicopter to Kokrajhar. Hundreds of Bodo girls will perform the traditional Bagurumba dance to welcome him. Several leaders, including Absu general secretary Lawrence Islary, Assam tourism minister Chandan Brahma, Daimary and former Rajya Sabha MP U.G. Brahma were supervising the preparations.
Islary said, “The programme will be witnessed by more than five lakh people representing the Bodo society. Preparations are going on in a speedy manner.”
Daimary thanked the Centre and the Assam government for inking the Accord. Brahma termed the Prime Minister’s proposed visit to Kokrajhar as “historic”.
The BTC has declared a holiday in the four BTAD districts of Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Chirang and Baksa on Friday.
Assam director-general of police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta expressed satisfaction over the security arrangements.
Additional reporting by a staff reporter in Guwahati