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Bodos block national highways in Assam as stir for separate Bodoland state resumes

Bodos are unhappy that despite assurances by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the 2014 elections to address the demand for a separate state, nothing has happened.

india Updated: Aug 28, 2017 18:41 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Bodoland,Assam,Bodoland state
Activists of Bodo organisations during an earlier blockade of the national highway 31 to demand a separate state of Bodoland in Assam.(PTI)

Bodo groups in Assam resumed their stir for the creation of a separate Bodoland state by blocking national highways in the state for 10 hours on Monday.

The blockade from 5am prevented movement of vehicles in several places in eight districts where Bodo people are in majority.

Rail connectivity to Assam and the northeast is already disrupted for over a fortnight now and is expected to continue for some time due to damage to rail tracks by flood waters in West Bengal and Bihar.

Thousands of slogan-shouting protesters with placards saying ”No Bodoland, No Rest” blocked NH-31 at Kajalgaon in Chirang district of lower Assam since Monday morning.

National highway-31, which connects the northeast to the rest of the country, passes through Bodo-dominated areas in lower Assam.

Bodo groups are unhappy that despite assurances by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the 2014 general elections to address the demand for a separate state by carving parts of Assam, nothing has happened.

Prior to last year’s assembly election, the BJP had reiterated its commitment to solving the three-decade-old issue. But nothing concrete apart from some informal talks has taken place.

“This is a historic day as Bodo women have come out for the first time in such large numbers to block highways. We have been forced to do so as the BJP governments at the Centre and in Assam have failed us,” said Pramod Bodo, president of the All Bodo Students’ Union.

The demand for a separate state in areas of lower Assam where indigenous Bodo people, the state’s biggest tribal group, are mostly concentrated has been continuing since the late 1980s.

But it was put on hold in 2014 after the BJP’s promise.

Over three dozen Bodo organisations under banner of the Peoples Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement (PJACBM) have decided to intensify their stir if tripartite talks between the Centre, Assam government and Bodo groups aren’t held soon.

Monday’s blockade would be followed by a 12-hour general strike across Assam on September 12 and a mass hunger strike on October 1. Indefinite rail blockade and economic blockade are also being planned.

“The highway blockade by women protesters is a clear message to the Centre and Assam government to start tripartite talks. If that doesn’t happen we will be forced to intensify our agitation,” said Pramod Bodo.

In 2003, the Bodoland Territorial Council comprising four districts was created to protect the rights of indigenous communities. The Bodo Peoples’ Front, which is in power in the autonomous administrative council, is part of the BJP-led coalition in Assam.

Despite creation of the BTC, the demand for a separate state continues.

First Published: Aug 28, 2017 18:40 IST