Assam has had a history of territorial battles between many of its 30 indigenous tribal and non-tribal groups but the violence in western Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) since July 20 appears to have united them against a common enemy — Bangladeshi immigrants.
Organisations representing these groups have pledged to drive away illegal Bangladeshis who they see as a ‘numerical threat’ to their ethnic identities. The underlying belief is: if Bodo tribal people are bearing the brunt of the influx, the others too are doomed.
“If Bodos don’t survive the Bangladeshi onslaught nor can the others,” said Ajit Basumatary, a resident of Kokrajhar town, the epicentre of the violence 236km west of Guwahati.
His prophecy followed the visit to strife-torn Kokrajhar by representatives of organisations representing 26 indigenous communities led by the All Assam Students’ Union (Aasu). The visit was for a united effort to intensify the anti-foreigner movement in Assam and elsewhere in the region besides updating the National Register of Citizens.
All Bodo Students’ Union advisor Ron Gwra Narzary said the rapid growth of the population of immigrants in BTC areas was a concern. “There has been massive encroachment on government land, forest land and grazing fields by immigrants. This seems to be part of greater sinister design against Bodos,” he said.
President of All Assam Tribal Sangha Aditya Khakhlary seconded Narzary, alleging that the state government was encouraging encroachment on tribal blocks and belts that the British had identified to protect vulnerable tribes in Assam.
According to Aasu advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya, a solution to the Bangladeshi problem in Assam lies in implementation of the Assam Accord of 1985. “New Delhi has to provide constitutional safeguard to indigenous communities.”
The pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Assam too identified with the problems of the Bodos, as have the Dima Halam Daogah catering to the Dimasa tribe and other community-specific bodies.