‘Unilateral deal with Bodos won’t bring lasting peace’, say non-Bodo groups
Hours after Centre and the Assam government signed a peace accord with the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and two other Bodo groups in New Delhi, non-Bodo groups and opposition parties in Assam said the deal might not bring lasting peace to Bodo-dominated areas, as expected.
The groups called a 12-hour shutdown in protest against the peace deal, affecting normal life in several districts of Assam.
While Bodo groups welcomed the deal by bursting firecrackers and distributing sweets, non-Bodo organizations like All Koch Rajbongshi Students Union, All Bodoland Minority Students Union, All Adivasi Students Union, Kalita Janagosthi Students Union and All Assam Nath-Jogi Students Union blocked roads and burnt effigies of central and state ministers in protest.
“Since 2003 after signing of the second Bodo peace accord, non-Bodo residents of Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) had been seeking its review as it affected their rights. But instead of that, the Centre went ahead and signed another deal,” said Naba Kumar Sarania, Independent MP from Kokrajhar.
As per Monday’s deal, the name of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), which administers BTAD, would be changed to Bodoland Territorial Region along with a slew of economic and political benefits.
“The new accord is undemocratic and unconstitutional. There are just 21% Bodos in BTAD area while the rest are non-Bodos. But none of these groups were consulted prior to going ahead with the deal. This unilateral accord will lead to further isolation of non-Bodos and won’t bring lasting peace,” said Pranab Narayan Deb, scion of Darrang Koch royal family.
President of All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU) Rejaul Karim Sarkar said that while they welcome a permanent solution to the Bodo issue, Monday’s accord won’t help solve that.
“Non-Bodos were kept in dark when Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC) was formed in 1993, the same thing happened when BTC was formed in 2003 and today it was repeated again. We appeal to Centre and state government to hold talks with all stakeholders before implementing the pact,” he said.
The All Assam Students Union (AASU) which been spearheading the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Assam , welcomed the deal but said it could be attempt to divert attention from the protests against the amended citizenship law.
“We welcome the move to address the issues of the Bodos with the accord, but at the same time care should have be taken to ensure that non-Bodos living in BTAD don’t feel like second class citizens. The Centre and state government has been making lot of announcements and deals regarding Assam in recent days. They could be an attempt to distract or divert attention from the anti-CAA protests. That’s not going to happen and our agitation will continue till the legislation is revoked,” said AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi.
The Opposition Congress also said that a peace deal without taking all players, including non-Bodo organizations on board, might not have the desired impact.
“I had requested Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to listen non-Bodo groups before signing the deal so that it is foolproof. Instead of welcoming the deal, many organizations called a shutdown on Monday, which shows people are not satisfied,” said leader of opposition in Assam assembly Debabrata Saikia.
The ruling BJP, however, denied the charges and expressed confidence that the deal would be able to bring permanent peace to Bodo-dominated areas and rest of Assam.
“We welcome the pact. It will address a long standing demand of Bodo people and since all rebel outfits and All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) are part of it, the accord will bring lasting peace,” said BJP spokesperson Rupam Goswami.
“The deal won’t hurt the interests of non-Bodo people living in BTAD areas. It will be ensured that their rights are protected. Those finding flaws with the accord are doing so because of their political agenda,” he added.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal also issued a statement welcoming the deal and tried to allay the apprehensions of non-Bodo communities that the accord would hurt their interests.
“No community residing in Assam should have any fear or worry about the deal. This deal will respect the rights of all the Bodo leadership and people will have to take people from other communities into confidence while implementing the deal,” Sonowal said.