Bodoland Crisis & New Bodo Accord
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Bodoland Crisis & New Bodo Accord

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Bodoland Crisis & New Bodo Accord

Why in the news?

Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Assam government, and the Bodo groups signed a tripartite agreement to redraw, rename, and changing the power-sharing agreement in the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD) in Assam.

This agreement has been termed as Third Bodo Accord. According to the Union government, the signing of the agreement will end the 50-year-old Bodo crisis. This agreement is a series of concerted efforts to fulfill the aspirations of the Bodo people relating to their cultural identity, language, education, and economic development, and political aspiration.

Who are Bodos?

Bodos are the single largest tribal community in Assam, making up over 5-6 percent of the state’s population. They have controlled large parts of Assam in the past.

The four districts in Assam — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri, and Chirang — that constitute the Bodo Territorial Area District (BTAD), are home to several ethnic groups.

Who are the NDFB?

Alongside political movements, armed groups have also sought to create a separate Bodo state.

 

In October 1986, the prominent group Bodo Security Force (BdSF) was formed by Ranjan Daimary. The BdSF subsequently renamed it as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), an organization that is known to be involved in attacks, killings, and extortions.

The Home Ministry has declared the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) along with all its groups, factions, and front organizations as an “unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The ban has been extended by five more years for its involvement in a series of violent activities including killings and extortion, and for joining hands with anti-India forces.

The Bodoland dispute:

In 1966-67, the demand for a separate state called Bodoland was raised under the banner of the Plains Tribals Council of Assam (PTCA), a political outfit.

In 1987, the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) renewed the demand. “Divide Assam fifty-fifty”, was a call given by the ABSU’s then leader, Upendra Nath Brahma.

In 1985, when the Assam Movement culminated in the Assam Accord, many Bodos saw it as essentially focusing on the interests of the Assamese-speaking community.

As a result of this, several Bodo groups led by the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland have been demanding separate land for the ethnic community.

The first Bodo Accord was signed with the ABSU in 1993, leading to the creation of a Bodoland Autonomous Council with limited political powers. The second Bodo Accord, it is agreed to create a self-governing body for the Bodo Areas in the State of Assam. In pursuance of this, the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) was created in 2003 with some more financial and other powers.

Bodoland Territorial Council is an autonomous region in the state of Assam in India.

It is made up of four districts (Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa, and Udalguri) on the north bank of the Brahmaputra river, by the foothills of Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh.

The area under the jurisdiction of BTC, formed under the 2003 Accord, was called the Bodo Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD)

Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC)

BTC is an area governed under the 6th schedule. However, BTC is an exception to the constitutional provision under the 6th schedule.

As it can constitute up to 46 members out of which 40 are elected. Of these 40 seats, 35 are reserved for the Scheduled Tribes and non-tribal communities, five are unreserved and the rest six are nominated by the governor from underrepresented communities of the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD).

Why the demand for separate Bodoland?

For centuries, they survived Sanskritisation without giving up their original ethnic identity.

However, in the 20th century, they had to tackle a series of issues such as illegal immigration, the encroachment of their lands, forced assimilation, loss of language, and culture.

 The 20th century also witnessed the emergence of Bodos as a leading tribe in Assam which pioneered the movements for safeguarding the rights of the tribal communities in the area.

From then on, they have been consistently deprived of political and socio-economic rights by successive state and central governments. 

The Bodos have not only become an ethnic minority in their own ancestral land but have also been struggling for their existence and status as an ethnic community.

Need For New Accord

The Bodo Accord signed in 2003, constitutionally mandated legislative power to the BTC. However, denial of assent by the Governor to laws passed by the BTC was one of the key reasons for the ABSU rejecting the 2003 accord and reviving the statehood demand.

Also, there is a demand for inclusion of villages with ST majority and contiguous to the BTAD, and exclusion of villages which are contiguous to non-Sixth Schedule areas and have majority non-ST population.

New Accord

According to the new accord, BTAD will be renamed as Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR).

The agreement promises more legislative, executive, and administrative autonomy under the Sixth Schedule to Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and expansion of the BTC territory instead of statehood.

A commission appointed by the state government will examine and recommend if villages contiguous to BTAD and with a majority tribal population can be included in the BTR while those now in BTAD and with a majority non-tribal population can opt-out of the BTR.

After this alteration, the total number of Assembly seats will go up to 60, from the existing 40.

The Government of Assam will notify the Bodo language in the Devanagari script as the associate official language in the state.

The memorandum of the settlement says that the criminal cases registered against members of the NDFB factions for “non-heinous” crimes shall be withdrawn by the Assam government and in cases of heinous crimes it will be reviewed.

The families of those killed during the Bodo movement would get Rs. 5 lakh each.

A Special Development Package of Rs. 1500 Crore would be given by the Centre to undertake specific projects for the development of Bodo areas.

The Assam government will set up a Bodo-Kachari Autonomous Council, which will be a satellite council for the focussed development of Bodo villages outside the BTR on the lines of the existing six councils for plains tribes.

Conclusion

The New Bodo Accord may have maintained the territorial integrity of Assam. However, the demand for separate statehood may emerge in other parts of the northeast, especially in the nine autonomous councils in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram to graduate to the new model.

Clamour for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status may also increase in the region.