GP Insights

GP Insights # 244, 4 February 2020

India's Northeast: Historic Bodo Peace Accord signed
Vaishali Handique

In the news
On 27 January, a tripartite peace agreement has been signed between the Government of India, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU). All the four factions of the dreaded military group along with the powerful student union consented to establish a peaceful Bodo territory and work towards the development of their people and region. 

The accord is historic, considering the militant group that associated itself with it. The NDFB is considered to be the most dangerous among the various militant outfits present in the north-eastern region of the country. The accord is supposed to work for the all-round development of the Bodo people, and it grants a sum of ₹ 900 crores. 

Issues at large 
First, the Bodos demanded an independent state with a separate administration. They were sceptical of the continuous influx of migrants from Bangladesh and other parts of India. Their agitation started even before the Assam Andolan (the 1980s) in which they demanded the preservation and security of their culture and people whom they thought would perish over time. 

Second, under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, the regions that have the Bodo population are administered right under the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD). The schedule protects the regions with special land rights to secure the indigenous communities living within them. The BTAD resulted in a challenging environment for the indigenous non-tribal communities where the latter is also entitled to such rights. 

Third, the issue of the NDFB led to ethnic violence was quite rampant in the Bodo dominated areas in lower Assam. Bengali-speaking Muslim migrant communities were vehemently attacked in 2012 and during the 2014 elections. Adivasi communities also suffered from frequent attacks, the most famous being the December 2014 Assam Violence.

In perspective 
First, the demand for a separate independent state was what drove the Bodo rebels to form a front in the 1980s. They later turned violent as State and the Central Governments neglected their demands. Peace accords were signed earlier as well, the first being the one in 1993 by the All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU) and the Government of India which resulted in the creation of Bodoland Autonomous Council. The second one was signed in 2003 with the Bodoland Liberation Tigers (BLT) which formed the Bodoland Territorial Council with four districts under its control. Despite these accords, the insurgency issue was not resolved and frequent ethnic attacks which the tribal Bodo rebels wedged on the non-tribal ones continued to take place. 

Second, the peace accord entails a ray of hope for the people of the BTAD as well as Assam to put an end on all the violence and unrest which has taken the lives of many over the last three decades. The Bodo community hopes that the accord will provide them with solutions to their long-pending issues and stop all the militant-led violence in the region which they claim to have disturbed the development of the same.

Third, though their demand for a separate state within the territory of India remains unaddressed till now, the members of the banned outfit unwaveringly look forward to a developed Bodo region. It is well understood that the Central Government cannot fulfil all the demands and will negotiate for a middle-line. 

The only question which can be posed is that whether this peace accord will be a total success or will it lose its momentum over time, like the previous ones, in the view of few remaining unfulfilled political demands of the tribal community? Nonetheless, the accord promises with the set up of multiple central universities and medical institutes in the region along with factories and sports facilities to generate employment. This is indeed a great achievement for northeast India as it will pose as a flag bearer of similar peace accords in the near future.

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