When Assam was still convulsing with clashes between ethnic Bodos and Muslim migrants early this month, a section of top Bodo leaders was attending a workshop organised by the BJP in Delhi.
The BJP has been trying to politically court Assam’s Bodo tribals, citing “common culture and religion” and a “common enemy” — Muslim migrants of Bangladeshi origin.
Although the Bodos — Assam’s largest plains tribe of a Mongoloid-Burmese stock — are largely nature-worshiping “animists” who follow the local “Boutha” faith as well as Christianity, the BJP has sought to reach out to them on a plank of nativity and Hindutva.
In Assam, ties with the Bodos – who now share power with the Congress as a junior ally – could give the BJP ample political leg room in the tribal heartland.
It’s not a bridge too far, says CK Das, vice-president of Assam’s BJP unit and a former top bureaucrat.
"It is possible that we may come together politically. Bodo leaders have told us they need to come closer to us for survival."
Das has been the local BJP’s main public relationship manager, tasked with forging ties with the Bodos, having served in Bodo areas as a former top bureaucrat.
He was one of the organisers of an August 7 seminar titled ‘Bodo Hindus — Refugees in their own land: Bangladeshi Muslim infiltrators—the new kingmakers in an Indian state’ at the Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation in Delhi.
On the other hand, Kokrajhar MP and Bodo leader SK Bwiswmuthiary said there was "nothing political about the seminar" he had attended, apart from the leaders present.
"We want to reach out to all the parties, including the BJP, to rise above party lines and fight illegal Bangladeshi migrants. We reiterate that we have no animosity with local Muslims."
Bwiswmuthiary said he attended the seminar to create awareness on how the "Bodos" have been pushed to one part of Assam, despite – once upon a time – being "evenly spread all over Assam, barring hill areas, and even parts of Bangladesh".
The seminar was attended by top Bodo leaders, including Bwiswmuthiary and Biswajit Daimary, Bodoland Territorial Council deputy chief Kampa Borgoyari and All-Bodo Students’ Union president Pramod Bodo. BJP president Nitin Gadkari also spoke at the event.
The All Assam Minority Students’ Union tends to view this as a divisive tactic. "The BJP’s entry has only sharpened the hostilities between us and the Bodos," union chief AR Ahmed claimed.