After a lull of over two years, the movement for creation of a separate Bodoland resumed on Tuesday with protesters blocking major national highways across Assam.
Accusing the Centre of ignoring their demand, groups headed by All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) that wants a separate state in areas dominated by Bodo people prevented movement of vehicles.
“Today’s protest began at 6am and will continue till 11am with blockade of four national highways at seven places in different districts,” Lawrence Islary, general secretary ABSU, said.
The blockade spread across seven districts including the four under Bodoland Territorial Council, affected the movement of heavy vehicles bringing goods to Assam and other states in the northeast.
Thousands of protesters shouting slogans and carrying placards demanding a separate state blocked national highways, but police say there has been no law and order problem.
“Although, there are thousands of protesters gathered at places where the highways have been blocked, everything is peaceful and under control,” Assam police ADGP LR Bishnoi told Hindustan Times.
Security arrangements have been put in place at Bodo dominated areas in the state. There is a pile up of vehicles at certain places, which is expected to clear after the blockade ends.
The agitation, which has been on for three decades, was put on hold ahead of the 2014 general elections after the Bharatiya Janata Party assured Bodo parties of support for the creation of a separate Bodoland.
Though there have been several informal interactions between Bodo organisations and Union home minister Rajnath Singh and his deputy Kiren Rijiju in the past two years, no official talks have taken place.
Disappointed with New Delhi repeated assurances, the Bodo groups gave the deadline of August 15 this year for initiation of talks. They decided to resume their agitation when the Centre did not respond.
“We have waited 2 years, 3 months and 4 days for the Centre to initiate official tripartite talks on the Bodoland issue. We are forced to resume our agitation as we have got only assurances,” Islary said.
“We will continue our protests in a democratic and non-violent manner. In the next phase, the protests will intensify and we may block movement of trains as well,” Islary said.
Started in 1987, the Bodoland movement has witnessed several twists with signing of two accords and creation of the BTC comprising four districts in Assam.
But the demand for ‘dividing Assam 50:50’ to create a separate state hasn’t died down. Areas falling under the BTC witnessed major clashes between Bodos and other groups in 2012 and 2014 leading to over 100 deaths.