Thousands of people displaced by ethnic and communal riots in areas under the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) since 1996 are set to return to the homes they left behind.
Central schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and Jal Jeevan Mission have been dovetailed with the rehabilitation programme within the next three months, Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) chief Pramod Boro said.
“Bodoland had witnessed riots in 1996, 2008 and 2012. Peace has returned to the region after the signing of the BTR Peace Accord in January 2020. We want the affected people to go back home and live their lives without fear,” Mr. Boro told The Hindu from the BTC headquarters Kokrajhar.
He was a signatory to the accord as the president of the All Bodo Students’ Union. He quit the union and became the president of the United People’s Party Liberal, which rules the BTC in alliance with the BJP and the Gana Suraksha Party.
Rehabilitation to start with Adivasi, Bodo people
“The rehabilitation will start with the affected Adivasi and Bodo people of Gossaigaon area [Kokrajhar district]. It is unfortunate that they have been away from home for 25 years,” he said.
Between 1993 and 2014, more than 970 Bengali-speaking Muslims, Adivasis and Bodos died in clashes triggered by indiscriminate shooting by extremist groups, primarily the now-disbanded National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB). Some of the 8.4 lakh people displaced by the violence have remained in shabby relief camps while others relocated to areas beyond present-day BTR.
“We are rebuilding the damaged or destroyed houses of a few thousand. The others have not gone to their abandoned houses because of security concerns. We are setting up police outposts in their areas to help them get over their fears,” Mr. Boro said.
The BTC chief also said the former NDFB extremists would be rehabilitated soon in keeping with a clause of the peace accord. “The Assam government will give us ₹160 crore by September for their rehabilitation,” he said.
More than 1,600 extremists belonging to four factions of the NDFB had surrendered after the signing of the BTR pact.
The BTC administration has received ₹1,500 crore from the Centre as a special development package to undertake specific projects for the development of Bodo areas.
But the worry for the BTC authorities is a ₹2,900-crore liability allegedly left behind by the Bodoland People’s Front administration that former extremist leader Hagrama Mohilary headed.
“He [Mr. Mohilary] ran the council as a one-man army for 17 years. People from the unlikeliest of places are coming to me with departmental files claiming the BTC owes them money for projects that were never implemented,” Mr. Boro said.
The previous regime had no policies on education, agriculture, employment or infrastructure development, and more than 200 schemes under the MGNREGA and two phases of the Jal Jeevan Mission were not implemented, he said.
“We have studied the annual operational plan of the last 17 years and have changed it by reforming, strategising and reorganising for proper implementation of the Central flagship programmes,” the BTC chief said.