Clashes between Bodo tribals and non-Bodos, and rifts even between the different factions of Bodos became frequent since March 2, 1987, when the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) led by Upendranath Brahma launched the movement for Bodoland’s statehood.
The trouble across the Bodo domain began in 1930s when Bodo leader Kalicharan Brahma submitted a memorandum to Simon Commission, demanding a separate political set-up for the indigenous and the tribals of Assam.
The Bodos are the largest plains tribe comprising about 30% of the population in Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD) straddling four districts – Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri – of western Assam.
The second wave of demand to ‘divide Assam 50-50’ in the late 1960s fizzled out like the first.
But the movement turned violent as the 1986-born Bodo Security Force – which was renamed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in 1994 – took over. The NDFB had a clash with the spearheads of the movement; it wanted secession of Bodoland from India while others wanted statehood within the Constitution.
The Assam government inked a deal with ABSU in 1993 to form the Bodoland Autonomous Council but the experiment failed. ABSU revived the statehood demand in 1996, the year when Bodoland Liberation Tigers (BLT) was formed to attain the goal through violent means.
The BLT, not keen on secession, soon became the NDFB’s rival. In February 2003, the Centre signed the Bodo Accord with BLT, which disbanded to rule the Bodoland Territorial Council.
As the BLT, led by Hagrama Mohilary, began wielding more power, the NDFB was sidelined. Former ABSU chief UG Brahma attributes the problem in BTAD to tendency of the governments to overlook it.
“There is no effort on the part of the Centre to understand our problems,” he said. “BLT got us a territorial council, NDFB wants to show it can do better by getting a state,” a Kokrajhar-based politician said. “But there is no guarantee that bloodshed will end.”