In a rare interview, the usually reticent chief of the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) has said that the conflict in the area in west Assam is one between foreigners and Indians, and not a Hindu-Muslim or a Bodo-Muslim one.
"The present clash in BTAD is an issue between Indian citizens and illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who have come in droves and taken our lands," Hagrama Mohilary, BTAD chief, told HT.
"And after building up their numbers, they are eyeing political rights which will pose grave danger to local ethnic communities."
"This is a problem not only for Bodoland or the Northeast but the entire country. This is a crucial time for us to stand united," Mohilary said.
Mohilary, former leader of the militant Bodo Liberation Tigers that fought for a separate Bodo homeland, heads the BTAD which came into existence after the government signed the Bodo Accord in 2003.
Blaming the media for the state of affairs, he said, "The national media has been one-sided in its reportage, blaming just Bodos for the violence. The current exodus of northeasterners back to their home states is a result of this misreporting."
"The propaganda is being deliberately and systematically spread by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal. Our indigenous Muslims have already warned him not to indulge in communal politics in the state," he said.
Now a Lok Sabha MP from Dhubri district in west Assam, Ajmal, a perfume baron, started his business in Dubai and came back to Assam about six years back to join politics. He heads the All India United Democratic Front, which is the largest opposition party in the state legislature.
Following incidents of violence in Assam, thousands fled mainly from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Chennai back to their home states in the Northeast after reported MMSes and SMSes threatened violence against them. Violence has also been reported from the trains they were travelling in.
Demanding that action be taken against Ajmal, the Bodo leader said: "This is a discriminatory attitude on part of the authorities. While one of our MLAs has been arrested on alleged charges of instigating violence, no one was arrested when four of our boys were snatched from the hands of police and killed on the spot. Nor has any action been taken against Ajmal."