The tripartite agreement which was signed on Monday in New Delhi gave birth to a Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR).
Union Home Minister Amit Shah described it as a “historic accord”, and said it would politically empower the tribal Bodos, and help develop the Bodo region and Assam.
But, what does BTR mean? Does it mean – the graduation from Territorial Council to a Territorial Region is an old wine in a new bottle?
This is the third Bodo accord in last 27 years, and each time, New Delhi signed an agreement to end a movement – both democratic and armed.
Movement in Bodo-dominated areas gained momentum from 1987 when the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) launched agitation for a separate state.
Ultimately, a Bodo-agreement was signed on February 20, 1993 between the Centre, Assam government and the ABSU-Bodo Peoples’ Action Committee (BPAC).
The agreement led to the formation of Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC), a contiguous area from river Sonkosh in the west to river Pachnoi in the east, on the northern bank of Brahmaputra.
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 NDFB termed the accord as “a mere piece of paper” and launched an armed movement for a sovereign Bodoland.
The Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), an armed insurgent group, formed in June 1996, launched its armed movement for a separate Bodoland state.
After carrying out a series of subversive activities for about six years, the BLT on February 10, 2003, signed a tripartite agreement with the Centre and Assam government.
It was the second Bodo accord. A total of 2,641 BLT cadres laid down their arms on December 6, 2003 at Kokrajhar.
The second Bodo accord led to the formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). A large number of the BLT cadres were absorbed in the CRPF.
The BLT leaders were euphoric with the second tripartite Bodo accord because the BTC, under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, had more political power than the BAC.
Soon, the Bodo Peoples’ Front (BPF) took control of the politically empowered BTC, with the 46-member in the Bodoland Legislative Council.
The BTC comprised of 3,082 villages in four districts— Kokrajhar, Chirang, Udalguri and Baska.
But, it was not the end of movement and armed struggle in the Bodo-dominated areas of Assam.
The All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) continued with its movement for creation of a Bodoland state.
Similarly, different factions of NDFB continued to carry out hit-and-run operations, and disturbed peace.
After several rounds of negotiations with New Delhi, four factions of NDFB and the ABSU, on Monday signed another Bodo accord, the third one.
Now, there is going to be 60 members in the Bodoland Territorial Region.
Though Amit Shah and the Bodo leaders are euphoric with the Bodo accord 2020, it is definite that it can never be the end of movements in Bodoland.
Any delay in implementation of the clauses of Bodo accord 2020, may prompt another disgruntled group to resort to movement.
The kernel of statehood movement, which the tribal Bodo had sown 33 years ago, cannot be eradicated so easily. Moreover, Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) is sure to witness a lot of “power struggle” between the leaders of the different factions of NDFB, incumbent leaders of BTC and even the ABSU.
Slightest of mistake at any step is going to disturb peace in Bodoland.