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No Need to Worry, Says Sonowal on Bodo Accord, As Pact Evokes Mixed Response in Assam

File photo of Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal (Courtesy: Getty Images)

File photo of Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal (Courtesy: Getty Images)

Sonowal said the pact will respect the sentiments of everyone and the Bodo community must proceed towards its implementation by taking everybody along.

Guwahati: The Bodo Peace Accord evoked a mixed response in Assam on Monday, with supporters of the pact expressing jubilation and non-Bodo outfits staging a 12-hour bandh against the agreement even as Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal asserted that no community living in the state have anything to worry about the settlement.

The Centre on Monday signed an accord with all factions of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), the All Bodo Students' Union and the United Bodo People's Organisation (UBPO), providing political and economic bonanza sans a separate state or a Union Territory.

Sonowal said the Bodo Peace Accord will be implemented keeping the territorial integrity of Assam intact.

"All the clauses in the Agreement will be executed with the support of all stakeholders and no community living in the state should be worried about the pact," he said in a statement.

Sonowal said the pact will respect the sentiments of everyone and the Bodo community must proceed towards its implementation by taking everybody along.

The chief minister also hoped that the people of Assam would extend full support towards the process.

"People from all sections of the society have been extending their support to the state government's initiatives to make Assam terrorism-free and this Accord would play a crucial role in the peace-building process," he said.

He also urged the young generation to contribute towards the developmental efforts.

Sonowal appreciated the roles played by Himanta Biswa Sarma, convenor of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) -- the equivalent of NDA in the region -- and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) chief Hagrama Mohillary in making the agreement a success.

He also congratulated the residents of the Bodoland Territorial Administrative Districts (BTAD) and assured them that the state government will extend full support in implementing the pact in letter and spirit.

BTAD comprises four districts of Assam -- Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri -- that are governed by the BTC.

Meanwhile, Bodo people wearing traditional attire assembled at ABSU offices and welcomed the pact by bursting crackers and distributing sweets, while agitators set vehicles on fire and burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah at several places in the BTAD.

Business establishments and educational institutes were closed and vehicles remained off the roads during the bandh called by outfits such as All Koch-Rajbongshi Students' Union (AKRSU), All BTC Minority Students' Union (ABMSU), All Assam Adivasi Students' Union (AAASU) and Oboro Suraksha Samiti.

They demanded that all non-Bodo stakeholders residing in the BTAD and the banned Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) be included in the peace talks and made signatories to the accord.

Kokrajhar's Independent MP Naba Sarania led a delegation of 15 non-Bodo organisations to meet Governor Jagdish Mukhi and submit a memorandum, highlighting their concerns over the Accord and urging him to convey them to the Centre.

On the other hand, several prominent persons from the Bodo community expressed happiness over the pact and hoped it will usher in an era of development in the region.

ABSU's Kokrajhar District Education Secretary Khamba Basumatary told PTI,"Today is a historic day. We are very happy. However, we have asked all the Bodo people to remain alert and stay indoors for a few days as some miscreants may try to create disturbances."

Kenny Basumatary, Bollywood actor and a prominent Assamese filmmaker from the Bodo community, said, "I hope that not just a few rich contractors, development of everyone happens. I wish peace and growth continue in the region."

Noted vocalist Jiten Basumatary hoped that creation of the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) will bring in development and create jobs.

"It is a really good news that medical colleges, universities and other such centres will be set up in the region. These will help students get better education and create jobs. All people living in these areas will be benefited," he said.

However, non-Bodo people, including Sarania, expressed dissatisfaction over the signing of the pact, terming it a "political conspiracy".

He said the pact was signed as the "ruling political dispensation was not confident of winning the upcoming Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) elections", scheduled to be held in April.

"A wave of change has been sweeping across the BTAD and both the Hagrama Mohilary-led Bodo Peoples' Front (BPF) and the BJP, allies in the state government, realised that the going will be tough with allegations of corruption amounting to crores of rupees against the BTC rulers," Sarania told reporters.

He claimed that the NDFB(R), whose chief Ranjan Daimary was granted interim bail in the 2008 Assam blast case that killed 88 people, had expressed an interest for negotiations two years ago but were told then that it was not possible till the serious cases against them are resolved.

"What has happened now? Why did the government delay holding the negotiations? The NIA court last year sentenced Ranjan Daimary to life imprisonment but now suddenly he was released on bail and participated in the talks. Does this not point to a political conspiracy?" Sarania said.

He stated that the cases against Daimary should not be dropped and law should be allowed to take its course. Sarania urged all the non-Bodo communities not to be disheartened as "the Accord will give an opportunity to work unitedly so that our goals are realised and we are not discriminated against".

"If there is discrimination against the non-Bodos, we will go to the courts, protest democratically and take further the initiative of creating a political alternative," he said.

Sarania said that the "only positive thing about the Accord" is that the state and central governments along with the BTC are claiming that the "decades-old Bodo problem will end and we hope that this happens".

"We do not want disturbances in the area and want to live in peace," he asserted. He also regretted that no representative of any non-Bodo organisation was part of the discussions that led to the signing of the Accord.

The first Bodo accord was signed with the ABSU in 1993, leading to the creation of a Bodoland Autonomous Council with limited political powers.

In 2003, the second Bodo accord was signed with the militant outfit Bodo Liberation Tigers, leading to the formation of BTC with the four districts, terming them together as BTAD.