Following is the translation of a two part Op-Ed published in Assamese daily Amar Asom, on July 26 and 27, 2012, by Dr. Nani Gopal Mahanta, Reader, department of Political Science, Gauhati University.
It offers a very important perspective of the on-going unrest in Bodo areas in Assam. Being a resident of Bodoland area, I feel the analysis is very correct. @rajudasonline
Violent Bodoland : When Policy becomes the factor of violence
Part 1, published on 26th July 2012.
Bodo region is burning again. As per data received till now, beside the death of 30 persons numerous dead bodies are floating on Rivers and Lakes (these numbers have not been included yet). More than 8o thousand people have taken shelter in relief camps; nobody has yet calculated the damage to property. This is not the first time that ethnic violence has taken place in BTAD or Bodo area. From the first stages of agitation for self-rule done by Bodos violence has been used. Conflict with Muslims took place in 1952 also. But after the ‘90s when Bodo movement started to be controlled under the leadership of Extremist groups, misunderstanding between Bodos and other ethnic groups and ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ to a large extent started to take place. After the failed Bodo Accord in 1993 Bodo agitators realised that for a ‘homogenous Bodoland’ the majority of Bodos is absolutely necessary. That’s why it became very important to evict people of other communities from Bodo areas. In 1996 and 1998 Santhals were attacked repeatedly, where 300 Santhal people died and about 2,80,000 people were forced to be displaced. Of course Assamese speaking, Cooch-Rajbanshi, East Bengali Muslim and Bodo people also died and lakhs of people had to live in relief camps.
A recent similar horrific communal conflict took place in 2008 in Udalguri. This conflict was mainly between Bodo and Muslim people. And other non-Bodo people distanced themselves from Muslims, which situation can be observed in the current conflict also. In this conflict also more than hundred people had died – about 1,50,000 people of various communities had to live as refugees in relief camps in Darrang, Udalguri, Kharupetia and other places. At that time a report was published on this, prepared with cooperation of Peace and Conflict Study centre of political science department of Gauhati University.
After travelling to some places in the conflict affected areas and talking with many people and organisations, it can be said with certainty that although there are many immediate reasons behind this conflict in Bodo areas the on-going Policies and Administration of Assam and Indian govt is mainly responsible for the situation. Almost the same factors of Udalguri conflict started these conflicts started from Kokrajhar. We learned nothing from Udalguri and earlier events. We did not give any importance to bring in necessary reconciliation among various communities. Taking way just one group from violence and pampering them was taken as the method of establishing peace. To do justice to one community of the multi-fragmented Bodo areas we did not give any importance to safety of other communities. The entire process of establishing peace is so erroneous that when one group takes arm we assume that the temporary silence of other communities is the yardstick of peace. For such incorrect policy in Assam such violence has happened and will again happen in future.
The Peace treaty signed with BLT in 2003 actually has the all the seeds of unrest. In the section 2 of the treaty the main objective of the treaty is –‘To fulfil economic, education and linguistic aspiration and preservation of land rights, socio-cultural and ethnic identity of the Bodo…..’, that means the main objective of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) is the development of Bodos only. The bureaucrats authoring the treaty did not bother to think anything about the majority people living in this area. 3,082 villages were identified to include in this Bodoland and 4 districts were included in the Bodoland. 95 more villages were proposed to be included – but in the villages the number of ST people can’t be less than 50%. It is claimed that today in many villages included in Bodoland the number of ST people is not even 20%. Including such villages quickly without any clear policy has led to non-Bodo people starting agitation. At first such apprehension of non-Bodos was led by United Communities Struggle Committee. After that before the start of current conflict Non-Bodo Security Front, the main conglomeration of 27 non-Bodo organisations, is organising various forms of agitation. Agitation has been going on to oppose inclusion of more than 57 villages of Kaligaon, Udalguri in this Bodoland. Their main protest is that these villages does not have Bodo majority (as per the treaty a village can be included in Bodoland if its Tribal population is more than 50%). The four districts of Bodoland were created by changing eight districts of Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaion, Barpeta, Nalabari, Kamrup, Darrang and Sonitpur. As per 1991 census, number of Bodo people in the entire state was 12,67,015. The basis of 2003 Bodo Treaty was 1991 census. As per this census the total population in the eight districts were 1,00,65,928. Among them population of Bodo was 11,39,194 and total tribal population 13,65,151. Of course Bodo leadership has placed various logic for this. In the formation of Council also only 5 seats are for non-tribals.
So the security of non-Bodo people was not addressed in this Bodo Peace Treaty. Even the question of land right of Bodos could not solved in this treaty. Uncomfortable but true that non-Bodo people have to live in very fearful situation. A part of hard earned income or salary has to be given to BLT, another part to NDFB (progressive), yet another part to NDFB (against ceasefire), plus various other organisations. Huge numbers of Assamese speaking people have fled to Darrang, Kamrup, Sonitpur etc places to save their lives, leaving behind their properties. Even 100% Muslim villages has been included in Bodoland, places like Tangla too has been included.
Actually the BJP (NDA) govt in power at time signed such a treaty in a hurried manner. BJP nicely brought division between Muslim-Bodo; Bodo-non-Bodo people and in the later stages we too contributed to appeasing for share in power. Today Cooch-Rajbanshis or Adivashis have not taken part in this conflict, because they do not want to associate themselves with these immigrant (perhaps third generation) Muslims. And Bodo extremists can’t attack these people easily, because they too have their own extremist groups. But that does not mean that this conflict is only between Bodos and Muslims. Such other conflicts will take place in later stages. Although already a huge section of non-Bodos have started huge agitation and in this agitation AASU and other organisations have offered support.
Part 2, published on 27th July 2012.
Question arises, why such violent and conflict incidents are happening with immigrant Muslim community? Although violence also takes place among other communities, conflict with immigrant Muslims take place much more frequently. First thing, govt can be blamed for this reason that, for last few months many sporadic incidents are taking place in Kokrajhar. In Goreswar and many other places various agitation movements are being held in the question of existence of Non-Bodo Security Front. There are numerous examples of such small incidents fuelling communal violence. In the case Udalguri-Darrang’s 2008 riots, Karbi Anglong (now Dima Hasao) and North Kachar Hill district riots etc also smaller sporadic incidents turned into huge communal riots. The Garo-Rabha conflict of 2010-11, before taking shape of planned riots, were started by immediate cause of smaller incidents that took place before the bandh. During such incidents due to lack of timely action by police, every time these take the form of fatal riots.
The same is applicable in case of current Kokrajhar riots also. On 25th May one fake NDFB militant died while going to collect money from Muslim people in a place called Howraguri. Later this fake militant was proved to be a Muslim person. On 30th June after death of a Muslim carpenter in Chapakata area a huge procession was taken out with his body and Bodo people were blamed for the death. Later the killers of this carpenter were found to be members of an Adivashi Terrorist group. Likewise two Muslim people of immigrant origin died in 5th July. In this case also Bodos were blamed but later the killers were identified as members of an organisation named KLO (Kamatapur Liberation Organisation). Arrangements were made to construct a mosque in govt forest land, later this was prevented with intervention of Govt and BLT members. Environment of mistrust was already created and on 19th July four Bodo persons were brutally killed in Jaipur area near Kokrajhar. On 19th July miscreants shot at two persons, injuring Mabinul Islam alias Ratul Ali and Siddik Ali, and after that ABMSU (All Bodoland Muslim Students’ Union) declared Jihad. Later the incidents of attack and counter-attack spread to neighbouring districts.
After talking to various Bado persons and organisation leaders it is clear that they are very upset over only Bodos being blamed for many small or big violent incidents. On the other hand, this is also clear that various Ethnic groups and communities have felt overwhelmly threatened due to massive increase in the number of Muslims of immigrant origin. In all kinds of woks like construction of four lane highway, bridges, roads and all other activities only these ‘Miyan Muslim’ labours are seen. In places like Fakiragram the demography has completely changed due to such immigrant Muslims. Able to do very hard work, this East Bengal based Muslims are basically farmers. On the other hand, middle and lower middle class people of Bodo and other communities have taken up occupations like service, contractor, business, etc leaving farming activities. These Muslims have obtained the land produce rights of even Bodo people’s farming using Sukhani, Aadhi etc systems. Slowly this people of East Bengal origin have got considerably involved in various sectors of production or economy. Living in Bodo areas, the citizenship of these people is a doubt. On the other hand, they are expert in knowing how to obtain valid citizenship using voting right, ration card etc.
Many talk about a third force in these riots. According to some, this third force has come from across the border and declared jihad against local population. According to another source such ‘miyan Muslims’ have the backing of powerful forces to increase the influence of a certain political party in the BTAD area.
At the end I want to go back to the statement made in the beginning of this writing. This conflict is basically the result of faulty policy and erroneous administration. Udalguri-Darrang Riots, Garo-Rabha conflicts of 2010-11 and Kokrajhar riots of 2012 are mainly result of faulty policy. Entire Assam is a Multi-Cultural Community consisting of various communities and ethnic groups. In such a pluralistic society a certain part of land can’t identified as only Bodo land, Cooch-Rajbanshi land, Rabh land or Adivashi land etc. If any community wants to start a separate identity in the name unique tradition or indigenous identity, then it would be against the history of Assam. In past also we had difference among us, but we did not start ethnic cleansing for that. We must learn to co-exist acknowledging the differences. Govt must create ethnic-neutral administrative units in place such ethnicity, community based separate lands. Otherwise we must be prepared to face such violence in coming days also.
At last, when a National Register of Citizens will be prepared, how much more politics will be done over a Register of Citizens acceptable to all? A correct Register of Citizens is for benefit of all of us, be it people of East Bengal or Local people or indigenous people!
(This is personal opinion of Dr Nani Gopal Mahanta, Professor, Political Science dept, Gauhati University. Dr. Mahanta’s opinions does not reflect the editorial policy of ‘Amar Asom’.)
Image of the original article in Assamese:
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