As the Gorkha-dominated north Bengal areas continue to reel under a violent campaign for statehood, it seems to have triggered similar sentiments in Assam’s Bodo Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) that threaten to destabilise the entire northeast.
“There is a reason why Gorkhas have lost faith in the government. They have been betrayed several times and the current outrage is a result of that. Similarly, in Bodoland also there are some issues, which will escalate soon. Despite the Bodoland accord, the promises made therein have not been fulfilled yet. This is leading to a trust deficit in the government,” Biswajit Daimary, Bodoland People’s Front leader and member of the Rajya Sabha from Assam, told IANS.
He warned of a violent protest, even more intense than the Gorkha agitation, if the current tripartite talks with the government did not yield any results on separate statehood. He demanded that both the central and Assam governments find a way to create a separate Bodoland sooner than later or be prepared to face never-before difficulties in the days to come.
According to Bodo groups, the creation of a Bodo Territorial Council (BTC), on the lines of Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) against the demand of statehood “is a farce” as they were yet to see the transfer of actual power under which the community could prosper. Gorkha-majority areas in West Bengal — Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong — are witnessing violent protests as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which is spearheading the separate statehood campaign, recently revived the movement. Although a long-standing demand, a fresh agitation erupted after the West Bengal government tried to make Bangla mandatory in schools across the state.
Similarly, the five-decade-old Bodoland issue has also witnessed fresh agitations against the government since 2016, after years of silence. The leaders accuse the government of betrayal. Bodos — Assam’s biggest tribal community — claim the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was not even ready to discuss the issue of Bodoland any more despite making promises in this regard during the 2014 elections. Bodo leaders claim they were rebuffed by BJP leaders whenever they tried to approach them in the past one year. Calling the GTA and the BTC “unconstitutional” as the actual powers had not been transferred to the bodies, Biswajit Daimary said that promises — such as creation of various departments and various posts under the BTC — were yet to be fulfilled even after over a decade of the creation of the BTC.
“Not meeting the promises is what has anguished Bodos. Creation of posts and departmental offices are not the works of the BTC but the central and state governments,” said Biswajit Daimary, adding that if this attitude continued, a movement similar to the one by Gorkhas was the next course. “The current Gorkha-type situation will definitely arise in BTAD. The state and the Centre will have to face the consequences,” said Biswajit Daimary.
Former rebel leader and chief of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (R) Ranjan Daimary said: “Long before the Gorkhaland movement, the Bodos started the movement for a separate state some 50 years ago.
“If things are not decided in our favour, then it will be more difficult and more problematic in the days to come,” Ranjan Daimary told IANS on the phone.
Pointing out that it was for the sake of a separate state that some Bodo groups had taken up arms, Ranjan Daimary stated that if coming to the negotiation table with the government did not work, things would be worse than what was happening in the Darjeeling hills.