A Win-Win Solution to the Bodo Problem
The final Bodo agreement has opened the doors for peace and prosperity in not just Bodoland but for the entire state of Assam.
This is another major step by the Modi government to solve long-pending issues in the north-eastern region and usher in wider development.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in celebrations in Kokrajhar, Assam on February 7, 2020, along with lakhs of people from the Bodo community.
This celebration is to mark the final solution of the decades-old Bodo problem that was signed on January 27, 2020, by the various Bodo organisations, the Union government and the Assam government. This is another major step by the Modi government to solve long-pending issues in the north-eastern region and usher in wider development.
As recent history would bear out, the settlement of territorial demands and disputes are not new for the north-eastern region. In Assam, there have been few ceasefires and subsequent memoranda of settlements. Going further, this is not the first pact that was signed between the Bodo communities and the government as there were similar pacts in 1993 and 2003.
The first pact was signed between the government and the All Bodo Student Union which led to the creation of Bodoland Autonomous Council and the second one was signed between the government and the Bodo militant ground Bodo Liberation Tigers which helped in the creation of Bodoland Territorial Council with the four districts which are Kokrajhar, Udalgiri, Chirag and Baska.
The current agreement which has been signed between Government of India, Government of Assam, Bodoland Territorial Council members, United Bodo People Organisation, All Bodo Student Union and National Democratic Front of Bodoland is very comprehensive and has covered a variety of issues in order to focus on the developmental projects.
Assam is a priority state to realise the PM’s vision for all round development of the North East development and also have the gains of the Act East Policy.
The Bodos are one of the largest tribes in the state of Assam, settled in the plain area near the mighty Brahmaputra river bank. They are considered as one of the few native tribes of Assam, as are other Kacharis. Their status as an indigenous tribe of the state has made them take various harsh steps in order to protect their identity and culture, as well as to protect their natural resources.
While the Bodos roughly make up 4% of Assam’s population, they constitute just about 30% of the population in the Bodoland region. Despite severe bloodshed due to violent movements by the Bodo extremist groups, where precious lives have been lost and government properties damaged, efforts for peace and a solution to their genuine demands were never lost.
The last few years of governance in the region has also been a positive outcome as the community leaders worked to develop the region and also carry the majority non-Bodos along.
The final settlement to the Bodo problem has been win-win for everyone. While the political and economic issues around the Bodos have been addressed, Assam has not been divided further. A major package for political rehabilitation and economic development is a welcome step and it will be important to ensure that the provisions are implemented honestly. The grant of developmental fund of Rs 1,500 crore for a period of three years to build various projects in Bodoland for the upliftment of the region is a very good step.
Both the union and Assam governments have assured proper rehabilitation to the over 1,500 armed cadre who will now abjure violence completely. The Union government has also emphasised the need to increase the working power of the current Bodoland Territorial Council. This will bring more political stability and also to take care of the Bodo communities living outside the Bodoland Territorial Council area.
Apart from this, the state Government of Assam will establish a Bodo-Kachari Welfare Council and will also notify Bodo language as an associate official language in the state. There will be a separate directorate for Bodo-medium schools. The setting up of a central university, National Institute of Technology, national sports university, hotel and tourism management institute, North East centre for medical sciences and sports authority of India centre are big institutional avenues that are very comprehensive for overall development of the region.
Needless to say the final Bodo agreement has opened the doors for peace and prosperity in not just Bodoland but for the entire state of Assam. This peace is very crucial for the development of the north east region as a whole. PM Modi’s vision for a wholesome development of the north each region needs all the pockets of disturbances to be addressed. The Home Minister is rightly and consistently addressing this issue and taking things forward on a proactive basis.
This accord should also motivate all the other fissiparous groups in the region to abjure violence and settle an agreement with the government for lasting peace of the region. Clearly this will be the right steps in realizing the advantages of the Act East policy that can position the north east as a business hub and emerging economic powerhouse.
(Subimal Bhattacharjee is a New Delhi-based defence analyst and cyber-security consultant. Views are personal)
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