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Centre, Assam Government And Bodos Sign Historic Pact To End 50-Year-Long Movement

Union Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah presides over the signing of historic
Bodo agreement on January 27, 2020 in the presence of Assam Chief Minister Mr. Sarbananda Sonowal among others.

In a path-breaking move, a tripartite agreement was inked between the Centre, Assam government and Bodo representatives on January 27, 2020. The accord aims at ending the 50-year-long Bodo movement in Assam that killed 4,000 people and saw several rounds of ethnic tension. Importantly, the latest accord—it is actually the third agreement signed with the Bodos till date—sees Bodo outfits dropping their demand for a separate state in favour of more autonomy and development assistance. The Bodo representatives comprised all factions of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU).

The New Bodo Accord augurs peace. All stakeholders should now avoid moves that revive separatist sentiments in Northeast India. In this respect, the Bodoland Territorial Areas Districts (BTAD) will be reconstituted by including new Bodo-dominated villages and excluding those with predominantly non-tribal populations. Bodo language will be notified as an associate official language. Meanwhile, as part of the new accord, a total of 1,615 cadres of all four factions of NDFB—NDFB (Dhiren Bodo), NDFB (Progressive), NDFB (Ranjan Daimary) and NADFB(S) laid down their arms before Assam Chief Minister Mr. Sarbananda Sonowal at the Guwahati Medical College Hospital auditorium on January 30, 2020. As part of the pact, Rs. 1,500 crore shall be released over the next three years for Bodo areas.

While all of this is positive, the accord doesn’t factor in one critical fact—that the majority in the designated Bodo areas are non-Bodos. Even if the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) is reconfigured, this fact is unlikely to change. As per the new accord, the BTAD will be renamed as Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR and number of seats in BTAD will be increased from 40 to 60.

And with land being at the core of the Bodo movement, not bringing on board the non-Bodo population could see a repeat of ethnic tensions down the line. The agreement provides political and economic benefits to the tribal areas without seeking a separate Bodoland state or union territory. The tripartite agreement has been signed by Assam Chief Minister Mr. Sarbananda Sonowal, the leadership of four factions of NDFB; Mr. Satyendra Garg, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Mr. Kumar Sanjay Krishna, Chief Secretary of Assam. This agreement will ensure the bright future of the people of Assam as well as the Bodo tribe.

Bodo tribes will get political and economic benefits after this agreement. The agreement will provide some political rights and some economic packages to the community. The agreement will ensure the safety of the Bodo language as well as Bodo cultural and regional matters. That said, if the accord delivers what it promises, it would lead to the end of one of Northeast’s long running insurgencies. But for the Northeast to truly enjoy fruits of peace and development, and become a bridge between India and Southeast Asia under New Delhi’s “Act East Policy”, other insurgency movements too need a negotiated settlement. The big one of course is the Naga peace talks which seem to have stalled after New Delhi signed a framework agreement with Naga group NSCN (I-M) in August 2015. Integration of all Naga homelands, and the use of the Naga flag and constitution—called Yezhabo—are sticking points here. But what comes as an additional obstacle to Northeast peace in recent months is the BJP’s Citizenship Amendment Act or CAA push, against which Assam is protesting and which has the potential to revive dying separatist movements. For example, it could give the non-talks faction of ULFA a handle.

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