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Narendra Modi lauds Bodos for peace pact, allays fears over Citizenship Amendment Act

Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal, Convener of North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) Himanta Bishwa Sarma and other senior Bodo leaders attend an event to celebrate the signing of the Bodo agreement in Kokrajhar district of Assam on Friday, Feb 07, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday advised the youth in central India's Maoist belt and Jammu and Kashmir to emulate the Bodos and shun the path of violence.

He also allayed fears that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act would bring illegal foreigners to Assam. This was his first visit to the State since the protests against the citizenship law began last year.

“I congratulate you for taking the right path and will ensure no thorn pricks you hereafter. I appeal to the youth elsewhere in the northeast, the Naxal areas and Jammu and Kashmir, who still believe in guns, bombs and pistols, to learn a lesson from the Bodo people,” Mr Modi said at a rally organised in western Assam’s Kokrajhar to celebrate the recent signing of third Bodo Peace Accord among Centre, Assam government, Bodo insurgent groups and two other Bodo organisations.

The Prime Minister said 130 crore Indians have been congratulating the Bodos for their peace initiative that would be “a new beginning for those who laid down arms” and for Assam.

“We are celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and its relevance has increased after the signing of Bodo Accord. It will serve as an inspiration (for others) to renounce the path of violence,” Mr Modi said.

Development priority

“The Bodos have received respect after five decades. The two previous accords signed in 1993 and 2003 could not restore peace completely. After the signing of the latest accord, no demands of the Bodos are left. Through this pact, the (newly-created) BTR (Bodoland Territorial Region) will get strengthened. Everybody has won through this pact. Peace and humanity have won too. Our first and foremost priority now will be development. I will never retreat without fulfilling your aspirations,” he said.

“Let us take a resolution on development today. We should work to ensure that the darkness of violence does not return to this land again and no blood is spilt,” the Prime Minister added

Mr Modi recounted the Centre's initiatives to settle long-drawn conflicts in the northeast, such as the issue of the Bru refugees from Mizoram that was hanging fire for more than two decades.

“Previous governments never tried to touch the complex issues of the northeast. Their approach alienated the people and they started losing faith in democracy. Development in the region took a backseat. We started with a new approach by trying to understand the problems and people’s aspirations. We could take them into confidence and considered them as our own,” he said.

Extremism waning

He also claimed that extremism-related deaths became a thing of the past in the region after the BJP-led NDA government came to power in 2014.

“We lifted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from several parts of the northeast after assuming power. Investment has started pouring into the region industrialists used to avoid. These all are the results of our hard work in the past five years,” he said.

Mr Modi said certain elements have been spreading fear about the amended citizenship law. In the same vein, he alluded to Congress president Rahul Gandhi's 'danda' (stick) remark.

“Sometimes people talk about beating with sticks but it doesn’t matter how many sticks I face. When such a huge number of people (the gathering in Kokrajhar), including mothers and sisters, bless me, nothing is going to happen to me,” he said.

Massive turnout

Bodo leaders said more than five lakh people turned up at the programme.

Promod Boro, president of All Bodo Students’ Union and a signatory of the January 27 Bodo Accord, said the peace pact helped the mothers get back their sons who were far from home waging an armed struggle. He was optimistic that everything committed to the Bodos through the accord would be implemented soon.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma were effusive in their praises of Mr. Modi for a peaceful solution of the Bodo problem.

However, Kokrajhar's independent MP Naba Kumar Sarania, who met Mr. Modi after he landed at the airport in Guwahati before flying in a chopper to Kokrajhar, said the non-Bodos would not accept the accord unless their rights are ensured.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 12:08:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bodo-accord-has-heralded-new-dawn-of-peace-in-assam-modi/article30761288.ece

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