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Bodo areas celebrate as govts sign peace accord

Union home minister Amit Shah, Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal and others after the signing of the accord in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

The tripartite agreement was signed in the presence of Union home minister Amit Shah and Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

Guwahati: In what is expected to boost peace and development in the Northeast, the Central government on Monday signed a fresh Bodo accord with all the factions of one of the most dreaded insurgent groups of Assam — National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), committing to them political power in addition to a Rs 1,500 crore economic package.

The powerful All-Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), which has been spearheading the movement for a Bodoland state, was also a signatory to the accord.

The tripartite agreement was signed in the presence of Union home minister Amit Shah and Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

Asserting that the tripartite agreement will not only fulfil political and economic demands of the Bodo people but also safeguard the Bodo language and culture, Mr Shah told reporters, “Today Centre, Assam government and Bodo representatives have signed an important agreement. This agreement will ensure a golden future for Assam and
for the Bodo people.” He also said that the accord would be permanent as it involves all stakeholders, unlike last time when three groups were left out.

Pointing out that the tripartite agreement has further strengthen the territorial integrity of Assam, Mr Shah said that 1,550 cadres along with 130 weapons will surrender on January 30.

“They are not militants now, all are our brothers,” said Mr Shah. Of them, those who have a clean record will be made part of the paramilitary forces. The families of those who died in the Bodo movement will receive Rs 5 lakh as compensation.

According to the agreement, the area called Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD) will be renamed as Bodoland Territorial Region and the Centre will expedite according “hills tribe” status to Bodo people living in the hill districts of Assam. The Bodo language, with Devnagri script, will become an associate official language in Assam.

The agreement also involves a hefty financial package — the state government will give Rs 250 crore for three years to develop the area. The Centre will add an equivalent amount, bringing the total to Rs 1,500 crore.

The funds will be used to set up industry, for employment package and to promote eco-tourism. Under the socio-cultural package, the government will set up a Central university in the name of Upendranath Brahma and a national sports university.

The other projects include a regional medical institute, hotel management campus, a Mother Dairy plant, a National Institute of Technology and more Navodaya Vidyalayas.

Mr Shah assured that all promises will be fulfilled in a time-bound manner.

This is the third Bodo accord signed in the last 27 years when the violent movement for a separate Bodoland state claimed hundreds of lives, led to destruction of public and private property.

The first Bodo accord was signed with the All-Bodo Students Union (ABSU) in 1993, leading to the creation of Bodoland Autonomous Council with limited political powers.

In 2003, the second Bodo accord was signed with the militant group Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), leading to the formation of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) with four districts of Assam — Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baska and Udalguri — called the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD).

The BTC has control over 30 subjects like education, forests, horticulture, but no jurisdiction on the police, revenue and general administration departments, which are controlled by the Assam government. The BTC was formed under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution.

Several non-Bodo organisations had called a 12-hour general strike in Assam on Monday to protest against the Centre’s new peace accord with Bodo rebel outfits. However, the bandh had limited impact in Bodoland Territorial Region as a large number of people came out on the street of Kokrajhar to celebrate the peace-accord. Most Bodo-dominated areas wore a festive look with ABSU supporters distributing sweets and bursting crackers to celebrate the accord.

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