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Hunger strike on demand for Bodoland (Relevant for GS Prelims and GS Mains Paper II)

Who are Bodos?
The Bodos are an ethnic and linguistic community centered on the Udalguri and Kokrajhar of Assam. They are largest of the 18 ethnic sub-groups within the Bodo-Kachari group.

History of demand for Seperate Bodoland demand
The demand for a separate land for Bodos has its roots as back as 1930s when a leader of the Bodos submitted memorandum to Simon Commission (1928) demanding for a separate political set up for the indigenous and tribal people of Assam. This demand was met neither by British India nor by Independent India.

The second wave of demands came up in 1960s and the third one in 1980s. This time, demand for Bodoland is under the leadership of Upendranath Brahma of the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) and its political organization Bodo Peoples’ Action Committee (BPAC). The objective of the ABSU/BPAC movement was to get Assam divided 50-50 between Bodoland and Assam.

The movement became violent soon. In 1993, the Assam Government entered into a bipartite Bodo accord with ABSU to form a Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC) to fulfill socio-economic aspirations of the Bodos. This experiment failed due to non-implementation of various provisions of the Accord. The statehood demand was again revived by ABSU in 1996.

In 2003 under the NDA Government, a second tripartite Bodo Accord was signed between the Bodo Liberation Tiger (BLT) , a militant outfit, the Central Government and the Assam Government. Via agreement the Bodos were granted the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) within the State of Assam under Sixth Schedule of Indian Constitution.

Bodoland Territorial Council
The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) has legislative, administrative, executive and financial powers over 40 policy areas in the Bodoland Territorial Areas Districts comprising four districts of Assam. The objective of BTC was to fulfill economic, educational and linguistic aspirations and the preservation of land-rights, socio-cultural and ethnic identity of the Bodos; and speed up the infrastructure development in BTC area. The districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Udalguri and Baksa came under the BTC administrative area.

As per the 2003 accord, the BLT surrendered all their arms and converted into Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), a political party.

Split in the party, this BPPF got split into BPPF (Hagrama), the erstwhile BLT chief and  (Rabiram)former ABSU president. The BPPF (Hagrama) was later renamed as Bodoland People’s Front (BPF).

There are two more organizations active in Bodoland as follows:

National Democratic Front of Bodoland
The NDFB, originally known as the Bodo Security Force (BdSF). Its stated objective is the attainment of a sovereign Bodoland. This was a militant outfit engaged in several blasts in the region.

Bodo National Conference
A new umbrella organization of the Bodos, called the Bodo National Conference with the objective of providing a common platform for all Bodo organizations – political and non-political – to fight for their common causes, including the demand for a separate State of Bodoland.

Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF)
This is the youngest of the active insurgencies in Assam. It came into being in 2004, following the ceasefire signed with the government by the United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) and the Karbi Anglong-based insurgent outfit, two years earlier. Its stated objective is greater autonomy for the district, not sovereignty or independence. However, it has carried out some dreadful actions of ambush, kidnapping for ransom and murder. Its activities have severely hampered power and railway construction projects in the region in which it is active.

Analysis of the demand for Separate Bodoland State
The demand of Bodoland state is based on the racial ethnicity but the Indian Constitution does not guarantee a separate state based on racial ethnicity.

Core problems of Bodos
A deeper analysis of issues of the Bodo community points out their fight for identity over land, territory and natural resources. The Bodo areas have been encroached and settled upon by others. The other problems are related to their low socio-economic status.

Way forward
The Bodo’s issue should be dealt by the government by adopting policies to protect their cultural-linguistic identity and socio-economic development.

1.    The government should strengthen the autonomous, administrative divisions in Assam established on the basis of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. 

2.    Assam government should ensure wider people participation in implementation of the provisions of the Constitution for the Bodo community. 

3.    At the same time, the government should strictly take action against the separatist groups who are creating organised violence in the region. 

4.    Efforts to divide Bodo and non-Bodo people should be countered effectively. Granting of funds and special status to Bodo people is not just sufficient; the government should take measures to improve the other economic sectors of the region like development of agro-based industries, tourism and hydroelectric power generation etc. It will create more employment opportunities. 

5.    On social development front, government should take efforts to create more educational opportunities and improve health facilities in the region. Measures to protect their language and cultural identity should be taken.
 



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