Bodos invite PM amidst anti-CAA protests
After avoiding at least two major occasions to
visit Assam in the recent past following the relentless
protest-demonstrations against the citizenship amendment act 2019
(CAA), Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Bodo dominated
Kokrajhar in western Assam today (7 February 2020) to grace the
celebrations on signing of Bodo agreement.
More than 4,00,000 people from the Bodoland territorial areas as well
as entire State are expected to attend the programme where PM Modi is
scheduled to address the gathering to hail the historic Bodo agreement
that was signed on 27 January in New Delhi by including leading
stakeholders under one framework. A cultural programme of ethnic
groups has also been organised by the government in Dispur to showcase
the diversity of Assam.
Hailing the agreement PM Modi termed the day as very special and
expected that the accord would lead to a transformative result for
Bodo people ushering in a new dawn of peace, harmony and togetherness.
He also added that the agreement was in accordance with the vision of
Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas and commitment towards a holistic development
of north-eastern region ending the five-decade long Bodo crisis.
The historic Bodo accord was signed in the national capital by top
leaders of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in presence of
Union home minister Amit Shah, Assam chief minister Sarbananda
Sonowal, Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) chief Hagrama Mohilary,
All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) president Pramod Boro with many
All important Bodo leaders like Rajya Sabha member Biswajit Daimary,
former RS member Urkha Gwra
Brahma, State minister Chandan Brahma, ABSU general secretary Lawrence
Islary, former ABSU leader Rwngwra Narzary along with top NDFB leaders
like Ranjan Daimary, Gobinda Basumatary, B Saoraigwra, Dhirendra Boro,
etc were present on the occasion.
Recognized as the third Bodo accord, signed with an aim to end the
four-decade long violent movement for a homeland for Bodo people, the
agreement is expected to halt the primary demand for other political
rights and development initiatives. Under the agreement, the BTC will
now be renamed as
Bodoland Territorial Region and Bodo language in Devnagri script will
become the associate official language in Assam.
Mentionable is that the first Bodo accord was signed in 1993 with
leaders of All Bodo Students Union which led to the creation of
Bodoland Autonomous Council. The second Bodo accord was signed in 2003
with now-defunct militant group Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) that led
to the formation of Bodoland Territorial Council with four districts
namely Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baska and Udalguri.
Soon after signing of the accord, over 1600 cadres along with top
leaders of NDFB surrendered 178 weapons on 30 January. State chief
minister Sonowal commented that the surrender ceremony on the historic
day coinciding with the 72nd death anniversary of Mahatma
Gandhi would pave a new chapter of peace. Sonowal assured of a
comprehensive rehabilitation policy for the rebels for providing
employment opportunities very soon.
State senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma termed the initiative as a
great step for the permanent solution to various Bodo issues as the
members of armed resistance groups would now contribute in the
mainstream society. Expressing hope that the accord would ensure a
golden future for Bodo people as it would safeguard the Bodo language
and culture with adequate political and economic patronage to the
community, he also stated that Rs 1,500 crore development funds would
be provided to the BTC authority.
He also urged all armed militant outfits including United Liberation
Front of Assam (Independent) and Manipur based armed groups like
United National Liberation Front (UNLF), Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup
(KYKL), etc to join the peace process. Mentioning about ULFA (I)
leader Paresh Baruah, he expressed hope that the outfit would soon
come to the negotiation table.
PM Modi earlier avoided two important occasions to visit Assam. A
summit meeting between Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe
was scheduled for Guwahati in December but it was later cancelled
because of persistent anti-CAA agitations in Brahmaputra valley of the
State. Later PMO declined an invitation to attend Khelo India games
held in Guwahati understandably for the same reason.
It may be noted that All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), North East
Students’ Union (NESO), Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad
(AJYCP), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS) and few agitating
organizations warned that they would demonstrate against PM Modi’s
visit to anywhere in Northeast. As the centre successfully passed the
citizenship amendment bill 2019 (CAB) in the Parliament, many parts of
the country erupted with anti-CAA protests.
A series of demonstrations have been observed with the participation
of locals including student leaders, singers, academicians, writers,
journalists, etc with the sole demand to repeal the CAA, which
advocates for Indian citizenship to religious persecuted asylum
seekers including Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Parsi, Jain
families from Muslim dominated Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh
(who came prior to 31 December 2014).
Putting voices for the specific bill that aimed to amend the
Citizenship Act 1955, Union home minister Shah quoted Mahatma Gandhi
as saying on 26 September 1947 that Hindu and Sikh people living in
Pakistan can fearlessly come to India as it would be the duty of India
to give them shelter and jobs. During debates in the Parliament, Shah
also pointed out that the Liaquat-Nehru pact on 8 April 1950 agreed
that both Pakistan and India would treat respective minorities with
On the debate, why Muslims have been kept aside in the process, Shah
categorically sated that Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh follow
their constitutions where it is defined that those are Islamic nations
and no Muslim can be religious minority there. He however clarified
that India has provisions for Muslim victims of persecution and they
are being given citizenship on case to case basis. At the same pace,
he assured that Indian Muslims need not to worry as the CAA would not
Protesters in Assam, baring the Barak valley, came to the streets
raising voices against the CAA as they apprehend that it would destroy
their language and culture. They would not digest the arguments for
making the CAA secular (read inclusion of Muslim asylum seekers) and
they are determined that no illegal migrant (irrespective of his/her
religions) should be settled in Assam after 25 March 1971 (mentioned
in Assam Accord).
But lately ABSU leaders came out with a statement calling upon everyone
irrespective of caste, creed, religion, etc to participate in the
grand ceremony. Thanking both the governments in New Delhi and Dispur
for the accord, they stated that people were waiting to welcome PM
Modi with the ray of hope. The government has also declared today as a
public holiday for conveniences of the residents in
Bodo-dominated districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri to
join in the celebrations.
The author is a northeast India based political commentator.
NJ Thakuria ,Guwahati