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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2856

Bodo people invites PM Modi amidst anti-CAA protests

By Nava Thakuria

After avoiding at least two major occasions to visit Assam in the recent past following the relentless protest demonstrations against the citizenship amendment act 2019 (CAA), Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Bodo dominated Kokrajhar in western Assam on 7 February to grace the celebrations on signing of Bodo
agreement, said a press communiqué from the central government information bureau.

More than 4,00,000 people from the Bodoland territorial areas as well as entire State are expected to attend the programme where PM Modi is scheduled to address the gathering to hail the historic Bodo agreement that was signed on 27 January in New Delhi by including leading stakeholders under one framework. A cultural programme of ethnic groups has also been organized by the government in Dispur to showcase the diversity of Assam.

Hailing the agreement PM Modi termed the day as very special and expected that the accord would lead to a transformative result for Bodo people ushering in a new dawn of peace, harmony and togetherness.

He also added that the agreement was in accordance with the vision of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas and commitment towards holistic development of north-eastern region ending the five-decade long Bodo crisis.

The historic Bodo accord was signed in the national capital by top leaders of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in presence of Union home minister Amit Shah, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) chief Hagrama Mohilary, All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) president Pramod Boro with many others.

All important Bodo leaders like Rajya Sabha member Biswajit Daimary, former RS member Urkha Gwra
Brahma, State minister Chandan Brahma, ABSU general secretary Lawrence Islary, former ABSU leader Rwngwra Narzary along with top NDFB leaders like Ranjan Daimary, Gobinda Basumatary, B Saoraigwra, Dhirendra Boro, etc were present on the occasion.

Recognized as the third Bodo accord, signed with an aim to end the four-decade long violent movement for a homeland for Bodo people, the agreement is expected to halt the primary demand for other political rights and development initiatives. Under the agreement, the BTC will now be renamed as Bodoland Territorial Region and Bodo language in Devnagri script will become the associate official language in Assam.

Mentionable is that the first Bodo accord was signed in 1993 with leaders of All Bodo Students Union which led to the creation of Bodoland Autonomous Council. The second Bodo accord was signed in 2003 with now-defunct militant group Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) that led to the formation of Bodoland Territorial Council with four districts namely Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baska and Udalguri.

Soon after signing of the accord, over 1600 cadres along with top leaders of NDFB surrendered 178 weapons on 30 January. State chief minister Sonowal commented that the surrender ceremony on the historic day coinciding with the 72nd death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi would pave a new chapter of peace. Sonowal assured of a comprehensive rehabilitation policy for the rebels for providing employment opportunities very soon.

State senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma termed the initiative as a great step for the permanent solution to various Bodo issues as the members of armed resistance groups would now contribute in the mainstream society.

Expressing hope that the accord would ensure a golden future for Bodo people as it would safeguard the Bodo language and culture with adequate political and economic patronage to the community, he also stated that Rs 1,500 crore development funds would be provided to the BTC authority.

He also urged all armed militant outfits including United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent) and Manipur based armed groups like United National Liberation Front (UNLF), Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lupm (KYKL), etc to join the peace process. Mentioning about ULFA (I) leader Paresh Baruah, he expressed hope that the outfit would soon come to the negotiation table.

PM Modi earlier avoided two important occasions to visit Assam. A summit meeting between Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe was scheduled for Guwahati in December but it was later cancelled because of persistent anti-CAA agitations in Brahmaputra valley of the State. Later PMO declined an invitation to attend Khelo India games held in Guwahati understandably for the same reason.

It may be noted that All Assam Students' Union (AASU), North East Students' Union (NESO), Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS) and few agitating organizations warned that they would demonstrate against PM Modi’s visit to anywhere in Northeast. As the centre successfully passed the citizenship amendment bill 2019 (CAB) in the Parliament, many parts of the country erupted with anti-CAA protests.

A series of demonstrations have been observed with the participation of locals including student leaders, singers, academicians, writers, journalists, etc with the sole demand to repeal the CAA, which advocates for Indian citizenship to religious persecuted asylum seekers including Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Parsi, Jain
families from Muslim dominated Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh (who came prior to 31 December 2014).

Putting voices for the specific bill that aimed to amend the Citizenship Act 1955, Union home minister Shah quoted Mahatma Gandhi as saying on 26 September 1947 that Hindu and Sikh people living in Pakistan can fearlessly come to India as it would be the duty of India to give them shelter and jobs. During debates in the Parliament, Shah also pointed out that the Liaquat-Nehru pact on 8 April 1950 agreed that both Pakistan and India would treat respective minorities with dignity.

On the debate, why Muslims have been kept aside in the process, Shah categorically stated that Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh follow their constitutions where it is defined that those are Islamic nations and no Muslim can be religious minority there. He however clarified that India has provisions for Muslim victims of persecution and they are being given citizenship on case to case basis. At the same pace, he assured that Indian Muslims need not to worry as the CAA would not affect them.

Protesters in Assam, baring the Barak valley, came to the streets raising voices against the CAA as they apprehend that it would destroy their language and culture. They would not digest the arguments for making the CAA secular (read inclusion of Muslim asylum seekers) and they are determined that no illegal migrant (irrespective of his/her religions) should be settled in Assam after 25 March 1971 (mentioned in Assam Accord).

However, ABSU leaders came out with a statement calling upon everyone irrespective of caste, creed, religion, etc to participate in the grand ceremony. Thanking both the governments in New Delhi and Dispur for the accord, they stated that people were waiting to welcome PM Modi with the ray of hope. The government has also declared 7 February as a public holiday for conveniences of the residents in Bodo-dominated districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri to join in the celebrations.

The author Nava Thakuria is a northeast India based political commentator

- Asian Tribune -

Bodo people invites PM Modi amidst anti-CAA protests
Bodo people invites PM Modi amidst anti-CAA protests
Bodo people invites PM Modi amidst anti-CAA protests
Bodo people invites PM Modi amidst anti-CAA protests
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