Millennium Post

Seeds of massacre sown in Bodo Accord

In yet another massacre carried out by a breakaway group of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and retaliatory violence by those targeted, nearly ninety people have been killed since December 23 in Assam. The group that targeted the Santhals or Adivasis is known as the Songbijit faction of the NDFB or NDFB(S). The NDFB signed a peace accord with the Government in May, 2005. Since then a ceasefire has been in force. But seven years later, a small NDFB faction, led by IK Songbijit broke away from the main body and took to arms yet again. Intriguingly, Songbiji himself is not a Bodo, which is a tribe from the plains, but a hill tribal from the Karbi Anglong hill district of Assam.

It has been a characteristic of  insurgency movements in North-East India that when the main body of a terrorist or secessionist outfit gives up the path of violence and decides to return to the mainstream, a small group breaks away to keep the insurgency alive, even if they are too weak to pose a threat to peace and security. In November, 1975, the top leadership of the Naga rebel organization, Naga National Council or NNC, founded by A Z Phizo, signed a peace accord at Shillong. Para 3(ii) of the Agreement stipulated that “the arms now underground, would be brought out and deposited at appointed places.”

The NNC was then led by the Angamis, the tribe to which Phizo belonged. But non-Angami leaders did not accept the agreement and denounced it as a betrayal of the Naga cause. Five years later, in January, 1980, two Naga rebel leaders, Isaac Chisi Swu and Thungelang Muivah formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). In April, 1988, there was a bloody split in the NSCN. Khaplang, a Hemi Naga, formed another outfit called NSCN (I-M). Later, both groups signed separate peace accords with the Government. Both groups have been confined to designated camps and Nagaland is now free of violence.

The most important insurgent outfit was the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). In December, 2009 ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and most of its top leadership were arrested by Bangladesh and handed over to India. They were lodged in Guwhati jail and began negotiations with the Centre for a peaceful settlement of what they call the ‘Assam problem’. Only the chief of the armed wing of the outfit, self-styled commander Paresh Baruah, neither surrendered nor joined the peace process. He is believed to the hiding somewhere on the China-Myanmar border. His men occasionally carry out acts of sabotage and subversion in Assam. He is nothing more than a nuisance value for the Indian establishment.

Similarly, Songbijit broke away from the main body of NDFB and has been targeting non-Bodos living in the Bodoland Territorial Council area. Earlier they targeted the Santhals (1996), Bengali Muslims (July, 2012) and again the Santhals last month. There is a sub-plot to these attacks. The Bodos are small minority in areas that constitute the Bodoland Tribal Area Districts. They were in a minority, when they forced the Government to surrender to their demand for a Bodoland Autonomous Council, virtually at gun-point in 1993. But they were not satisfied and wanted more – territorial and administrative powers. Ten years later in 2003, the Centre yielded to their demand and the Bodoland Terriotorial Council was formed. But they remained in a minority. Even now, the strength of the Bodo population in BTC area is estimated to be just 28 per cent.

They were not happy with the situation. Consequently, they decided to target and drive out, one by one, all non-Bodo communities living in Bodoland. This explains the repeated ethnic clashes.

Consequently,  all the non-Bodo communities decided to take on the Bodos. In the Lok Sabha elections they set up a common candidate – Naba Kumar Sarania alias Hira Sarania – for the Kokrajhar Lok Sabha seat. The result brought out the stark reality. Hira Sarania trounced his Bodo rival by polling 6,34,428 votes against Urkhao Gwra Brahma’s 2,78,649. This humiliating defeat was too much for the Bodos to stomach.

It is noteworthy that while prominent Bodo political leaders like Pramila Rani Brahma have condemned the attack on the Santhals, there has been no perceptible reaction from the general Bodo populace.

As long as the common Bodo people living in Bodoland Territorial Council areas do not reconcile
themselves to the fact that they are a minority and must learn to live peacefully with the majority non-Bodos, the subjective conditions for the emergence of yet another armed rebel group will always be present. They will never be able to drive out all the non-Bodos to a man. However, they can indulge in occasional bouts of violence targeting and killing different non-Bodo groups.         IPA
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