Indian Polity & Federalism
Topic: General Studies 2:
- Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure
The signing of Historic Comprehensive Bodo Settlement Agreement (third Bodo Accord in three decades) in Jan 2020 between Government of India (Ministry of Home Affairs), Government of Assam and Bodo representatives.
Bodo representatives included: Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), All Bodo Students Union (ABSU), United Boro People Organization (UBPO), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) factions
Pic Source: Yahoo news
Who are Bodos?
Bodos are the single largest tribal community in Assam, making up over 5-6 per cent of the state’s population. They have controlled large parts of Assam in the past
A timeline of Bodo Conflict
Although the Bodo agitation has a long history that dates back to the pre-Independence era, the movement gained momentum in the late 1980s, when calls were made for the bifurcation the state of Assam.
1929 – Bodo leader Gurudev Kalicharan Brahma submits a memorandum to the Simon Commission asking for reservations in the Legislative assembly, and for a separate political entity for his people. His efforts go in vain
1960s and 1970s – There are calls from Bodos and other tribes for a separate state of ‘Udayachal’ as immigrants are accused of illegally encroaching on Bodo-inhabited lands
Late 1980s – Calls for a separate state for Bodos – Bodoland – and for Assam to be divided “50-50” are raised. The demand was primarily led through peaceful methods by All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) and its leader Upendranath Brahma
Also during this time armed separatist group – The National Democratic Front of Bodoland is founded (1986).
Why the demand for separate Bodoland?
- For centuries, they survived sanskritisation without giving up their original ethnic identity. However, in the 20th century, they had to tackle a series of issues such as illegal immigration, encroachment of their lands, forced assimilation, loss of language and culture.
- The Bodos have thus not only become an ethnic minority in their own ancestral land but have also been struggling for their existence and status as an ethnic community.
- The movement peaked in 1980s primarily due to Assam movement and its culmination with the Assam Accord which addressed the demands of protection and safeguards for the “Assamese people”. This lead the Bodos to launch a movement to protect their own identity.
Progress made by government for resolution of Bodo issue
First Accord – Feb 1993
The Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC) is constituted after the Centre, the Assam government and the ABSU sign a tripartite agreement.
The BAC was given power over 38 subjects, with a 40-member General Council, including 5 members nominated by the state government, while rest of the seats were reserved for ST.
But, soon a section of Bodo people rejected the accord, and claimed it was “inadequate” to meet the long-cherished political aspirations of the people.
The Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), an armed insurgent group, formed in June 1996, launched its armed movement for a separate Bodoland state.
Second Accord- Feb 2003
After six years of subversive activities, BLT signed a tripartite agreement with the Centre and Assam government.
The second Bodo accord led to the formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, which had more political power than the BAC A large number of the BLT cadres were absorbed in the CRPF.
The area under the BTC jurisdiction is officially called the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) comprising of 3,082 villages in four districts— Kokrajhar, Chirang, Udalguri and Baska.
However, ABSU continued with its movement of separate Statehood and different factions of NDFB continued to carry out hit-and-run operations, and disturbed peace.
Third Accord – Jan 2020
The 2020 agreement has the following provisions:
- Renaming: From BTAD to Bodoland Territorial Region.
- A commission (representative of ABSU, BTC & State) under Section 14 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India, which will recommend the inclusion or exclusion of tribal population residing in villages adjoining BTAD areas.
- Redrawing Boundaries: Villages dominated by Bodos that were presently outside the BTAD would be included and those with non-Bodo population would be excluded
- Bodoland territorial Council (BTC)- The agreement would lead to more legislative, executive, administrative and financial powers of the BTC including increase in seats from 40 to 60
- Bodos living in the hills would be granted Scheduled Hill Tribe status.
- Bodo language with Devnagri script will become associate official language for entire of Assam and a separate directorate for Bodo medium schools will be set up.
- Development Package of ₹1500 crore by the Centre for the development of Bodo areas
- Bodo-Kachari Welfare Council for focused development of Bodo villages outside BTAD
- The agreement also involved rehabilitation of members of National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) factions- over 1500 armed cadres will abjure violence and join the mainstream
Implication of the Third Accord
The agreement is hailed as a permanent solution to a conflict, which has taken over 4,000 human lives.
Home Minister stated that Assam’s territorial integrity is assured with this agreement, as every single Bodo group has come on board.
Enhanced focus by Union government on tackling the issues of North-East so as to usher development in the region.
This is reflected in Bru-Reang agreement signed on January 16, 2020 to end the humanitarian crisis in Meghalaya and Tripura, recent surrender of 644 armed cadres in Assam and surrender of 88 armed NLFT cadres in Tripura to bring them to mainstream.
The peace in Bodoland Territorial Region will depend on the evolving relationship between the Bodos, the dominant but not the majority in the BTR and other communities.
It also depends on the final implementation of the accord and the ability of the state to rehabilitate the militants so as to prevent them from taking up anti-social activities.