The Telengana tsunami hit the Congress in the Assam Assembly on Friday with its regional ruling ally spearheading the demand for creation of at least four tribal states. The map of one of them – Kamtapur – extends to the northern half of adjoining West Bengal.
“The decision on Telengana has raised hopes for us. For over four decades now, we have been demanding a state for the Bodo ethnic community. We have not given up the demand, and we will fight for it democratically,” said Rural Development Minister Chandan Brahma in the House on Friday.
Brahma is one of the 12 legislators of the Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF), the Congress’ ruling ally. “Assam has to be divided and the tribal people given the right to rule themselves,” added fellow BPF legislator Karendra Basumatary.
In a spot of bother following the Centre’s decision on Telengana, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi indirectly ruled out further bifurcation of Assam. “Everyone has demands, but it is desirable for all ethnic communities to live together in peace,” he said.
Since 1963, Assam has undergone divisions with the creation of Nagaland, Meghalaya (1972) and Mizoram (1987, though it was carved out as a Union Territory in 1972). The demand for a state for Bodos – largest plains tribe in the Northeast – began in 1967 but ended in the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in 2003 following a decade of violence by pro-statehood rebel outfits.
BTC covers an area of 8970 sq km across four northwestern districts – Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baska and Udalguri. The demand for statehood remained dormant until Telengana triggered it.
If allies stepped up the heat for the creation of a Bodoland state, pressure from within Congress mounted for statehood for Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills. The party heads the autonomous councils in both these districts measuring 10,434 sq km and 4,888 sq km respectively.
If these states are granted, Assam will be left with an area of 54,146 sq km. This does not include Kamtapur – overlapping areas covered by BTC and beyond – for the Koch-Rajbongshi community.
Like Bodoland, militants have often taken over the statehood movements in Karbi Anglong and NC Hills. These militant outfits – United Peoples Democratic Solidarity seeking ‘Hemprek Kangthim’ or self-rule territory for Karbi tribal community in Karbi Anglong and Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) fighting for a ‘Dimaraji’ state for Dimasa tribal people in NC Hills – have invariably resorted to ethnic cleansing to justify their demand.
Karbi Anglong (earlier Mikir Hills) and NC Hills were created as autonomous districts on February 2, 1970.
“Dimaraji is our birthright and we will do everything to attain it,” said Dilip Nunisa, chief of one of the factions of the DHD. The UPDS and its byproduct – Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front – have also issued similar statements.