The latest spell of violence has left the Bodoland districts ravaged. More than 1.70 lakh people have been displaced. Life is miserable at the 173 relief camps where many of them have been packed into. The threat to their life looms large and there is acute absence of basic amenities in the camps. It’s a humanitarian crisis of gigantic proportions. It’s curious that most mainstream Assamese organisations have been unusually muted in their reaction to the developments.
They appear disinterested. And it hurts the Bodo leadership. “The general feeling is that the mainstream Assam organisations like the All Assam Students’ Union are not extending enough support. Leaders like Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, president of AGP, and Sarbananda Sonowal, leader of the BJP, are not vocal about the clashes in BTAD areas…We supported the greater cause of the Assamese every time,” Bodo National Conference (BNC), convenor, Anjali Daimari told Firstpost from Guwahati.
She added a note of warning: “People are not realising that this violence may not stay confined to BTAD areas only. If the Bangladeshi illegal migrants have reached our area it won’t take much time for them to spread to other parts of the states.”
There are other reasons to be worried about too. Western Assam—the BTAD’s area of influence—is crucial to the entire North-East as through it passes the only supply route to the whole region. The railway and road routes connecting the North-East to other parts of the country lie in this area.
Daimari is not alone feeling cheated by Assamese organisations.
“The Assamese people in general are not bothered much since the violence is not affecting them directly,” a professor from the Bodo community, who did not wish to be named, said.
“It is sad that the even in this hour of need the compassion is not sufficient. We always look up to them and it is their duty to help us in distress,” he added.
The relationship between the western Assam regions and mainland Assam has not been a comfortable one. Though there has been no open antagonism, there is an obvious lack of emotional bonding. The regions remain too far apart geographically. Blame it on the absence of good communication facility and poor development in the Bodo region. The dissimilarity in language and culture had added to the distance too.
The level of interaction between the regions is low as the Bodos are concentrated in the western region and their presence in the rest of Assam is negligible. It has not helped that a few mainstream organisations have been opposed to the Bodo movement.
The BNC converner said that organisations like the Ana-Bodo Surakhya Samity and Non-Bodo Security Committee are indulging in anti-Bodo movement at a time when the Bodos needed support.
“People are not open to tribal leadership mentally. Why is there a call for scrapping BTAD and a demand for removing Bodoland Territorial Council chief Hagrama Mohilary by these organisations? They are creating a mental separation. It is only legitimate that we get more facilities in our areas. We have fought for it and the Central government gave it to us. We have not snatched anything from someone else,” Daimari said.
The professor said the Bodo community needed help from other Assamese.
“The tribal lands are safeguarded by Chapter X of the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886, which clearly mentions that the land ownership will be only at the hands of the tribals. However, in para 3 of the Sixth Schedule of the Memorandum of Settlement on BTC this exclusive right over land for tribals was scrapped,” he said.
Land has been the biggest source conflict in the region in recent years. He wants other Assamese to come to the aid of the Bodos by helping restore their land rights.
The mainstream organisations refute the charge of indifference though.
“It is wrong to say that. The AASU is burning effigies of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and has been blaming the home ministry for failing to control the violence in the riot-hit areas. We are doing that all over Assam. The chief minister went to Kokrajhar today because of pressure from us,” All Assam Students’ Union adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya told Firstpost.
“Our team has already visited the affected areas. We are with the affected people completely and we have been demanding foolproof security for them. We are having a meeting with 26 other organisations this evening to take stock of the situation,” the AASU adviser said.
Former president of the Assam Sahitya Sabha, Nagen Saikia, said, “The Assamese intelligentsia is doing their bit. They are writing in newspapers and condemning the violence. We all want peace to be restored. We are doing whatever is possible at individual levels,” Saikia told Firstpost over telephone from Dibrugarh.