10th February 2020 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot 

Question – Keeping in mind the priority given by the government to the North-East, analyse the recently signed historic Bodo agreement.

Context – Prime Minister will participate in celebrations in Kokrajhar, Assam on February 7, 2020, along with lakhs of people from the Bodo community.

  • This celebration is to mark the final solution of the decades-old Bodo problem that was signed on January 27, 2020, by the various Bodo organisations, the Union government and the Assam government.


Who are the Bodos?

  • The Bodos (pronounced BO-ros) are an ethnic and linguistic community, early settlers of Assam in the North-East of India. According to the 1991 census, there were 1.2 million Bodos in Assam which makes for 5.3% of the total population in the state. Bodos belong to a larger group of ethnicity called the Bodo-Kachari.
  • They are the single largest tribal community in Assam, making up over 5-6 per cent 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.

Bodoland dispute history:

  • The Bodos have had a long history of separatist demands, marked by armed struggle.
  • 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.
  • The unrest was a fallout of the Assam Movement (1979-85), whose culmination — the Assam Accord — addressed the demands of protection and safeguards for the “Assamese people”, leading the Bodos to launch a movement to protect their own identity.
  • In December 2014, separatists killed more than 30 people in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur. In the 2012 Bodo-Muslim riots, hundreds were killed and almost 5 lakh were displaced.

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 itself as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), an organisation that is known to be involved in attacks, killings, and extortions.
  • In the 1990s, Indian security forces launched extensive operations against the group, causing the latter to flee to bordering Bhutan. In Bhutan, the group faced stiff counter-insurgency operations by the Indian Army and the Royal Bhutan Army in the early 2000s.

NDFB factions and their activities:

  • In October 2008, bomb attacks in Assam carried out by the NDFB killed 90 people. In January this year, 10 operatives, including founder Ranjan Daimary, were convicted for their role in the attacks.
  • After the blasts, the NDFB was divided into two factions — the NDFB (P), led by Gobinda Basumatary, and the NDFB (R), led by Ranjan Daimary.
  • The NDFB (P) started talks with the central government in 2009. In 2010, Daimary was arrested and handed over to India by Bangladesh, and was granted bail in 2013. His faction too then began peace talks with the government.
  • In 2012, Ingti Kathar Songbijit broke away from the NDFB (R) and formed his own faction, the NDFB (S). His faction is believed to be behind the killing of 66 Adivasis in Assam in December 2014. The NDFB (S) is against holding talks.
  • In 2015, Songbijit was removed as the chief of the group and B Saoraigwra took over. This faction of the NDFB is still active, while Songbijit, himself a Karbi and not a Bodo, is said to have started his own militant group.

Why in news?

  • The Bodoland issue is back in the news again due to the signing of the historic Bodo agreement.

The historic Bodo agreement:

  • Union Minister for Home Affairs, presided over the signing of a historic agreement between Government of India, Government of Assam and Bodo representatives, in New Delhi today, to end the over 50-year old Bodo crisis. Further, a permanent solution has been found out for the problem that has cost the region over 4000 lives.
  • With this agreement, over 1500 armed cadres will abjure violence and join the mainstream. A Special Development Package Rs. 1500 crores over three years will be given by the Union Government to undertake specific projects for the development of Bodo areas.
  • the objective of the MoS is to increase the scope and powers of the BTC and to streamline its functioning; resolve issues related to Bodo people residing outside Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD); promote and protect Bodo’s social, cultural, linguistic and ethnic identities; providing legislative protection for the land rights of tribals; ensure quick development of tribal areas and rehabilitate members of NDFB factions.
  • After the agreement, the NDFB factions will leave the path of violence, surrender their weapons and disband their armed organizations within a month of signing the deal. The Union Government and the Government of Assam will take necessary measures to rehabilitate over 1500 cadres of NDFB (P), NDFB (RD) and NDFB (S), as per the laid down policy of the government.
  • The current agreement proposes to set up a commission under Section 14 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India, which will recommend the inclusion or exclusion of tribal population residing in villages adjoining BTAD areas. In this commission, besides State government there will be representatives from ABSU and BTC. It will submit its recommendation within six months from the date of notification.
  • The Government of Assam will establish a Bodo-Kachari Welfare Council as per existing procedure. The Assam government will also notify Bodo language as an associate official language in the state and will set up a separate directorate for Bodo medium schools. The present settlement has proposal to give more legislative, executive, administrative and financial powers to BTC.

Way ahead:

  • The signing of the agreement is historic, the next step is its full fledged implementation and smooth resolution of any further issues.

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