Bodoland at a crossroads

March 13, 2012 12:07 am | Updated November 16, 2021 11:56 pm IST

As the movement demanding a homeland for the Bodo people completes 25 years, it remains one of the most serious potential sources of violent political confrontation in northeastern India. The Bodoland Autonomous Council that came out of the first tripartite Bodo Accord of 1993, and the Bodoland Territorial Council that the second tripartite Bodo Accord of 2003 spawned, have admittedly failed to meet the political aspirations of the movement's leadership. These involve the constitution of a state comprising nearly a third of Assam — although the agitationists' war-cry has been to “Divide Assam 50-50.” The futility of, and the contradictions involved in, seeking the formation of separate states as a means to meet sub-national aspirations is once again in focus here. Yet another territorial division of Assam is inconceivable. It certainly cannot be done with the ease with which splits could be effected in the 1960s and 1970s. Even admitting the historical grievances behind the cultural-political rebellions among the State's “tribal communities” — and the poignancy of the Bodo cause stemming from their perception of themselves as a part of the composite “indigenous” population of Assam that has been overrun — the Bodoland demand faces singular imponderables. The most serious of these may well be the perversions that set in under the movement's umbrella, particularly the tactic of extortionist violence. This has undermined its ideological moorings. Thus, it is fruitless in the present context to dwell any more on the feasibility of a separate political entity for Bodos.

Under Sheikh Hasina, Dhaka has also done its bit to stem Bodo militancy. The handing over in 2010 of Ranjan Daimary, who led the National Democratic Front for Bodoland, was a signal to all insurgents in the region that Bangladesh would no more be a sanctuary. At a point when the government's sustained and aggressive security strategies, coupled with a push and a shove from across the border, have virtually broken the back of the other regional scourge of ULFA, the State and Central governments should wake up to the new threat — however empty it may sound — held out by the Bodo agitators at their meeting in Kamrup district on March 2 under the banner of the All Bodo Students' Union to breathe new life into their campaign. The dying embers should be doused by means of a systematic and sustained strategy that also helps meet the genuine developmental needs of the Bodo people. Yet, scepticism about the Centre's perspective on the long-term problems of the region persists. A coherent policy, not ad-hocism, should be the hallmark of its approach.

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