Bodo accord stakeholders seek inclusion in BTC to ensure lasting peace in Bodoland
New Delhi, Feb 18 : Days after the Centre inked the Bodo accord to resolve the decades-old armed conflict in Assam, signatories of the pact have said inclusion of all stakeholders in the Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) administration is a must to ensure lasting peace in the region.
The Centre on January 27 signed the peace accord with various factions of Assam's insurgent group National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), providing them political and economic benefits though not the outfit's key demand of a separate Bodoland state or union territory.
This is the third Bodo accord signed in the last three decades since the movement for a separate Bodoland state began in 1972.
The BTC, a territorial council comprising four districts of Assam - Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri - came into existence in 2003 as part of a Memorandum of Understanding between the central government, the state government and the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) members.
BTC elections will be held on April 8.
The stakeholders of the accord, which include leaders of the three armed factions of the NDFB, said a provision to absorb them into Bodo politics will bring the much sought after transformation of the Bodo Territorial Region as they have been struggling for their community for decades and understand the needs of their people.
"It is we who fought for our (Bodo) people. The government needs to accommodate actual leaders like us in the Bodo administration as we know better what our people need," Gobinda Basumatary, President of NDFB (Progressive) and a signatory of the Bodo accord told PTI over the phone from Kokrajhar.
Basumatary alleged that despite the two previous Bodo accords that paved the way for autonomy of Bodoland, powers have been centralised in the hands of a few who have been running the BTC since its creation.
"If the people who have been running the Bodo Territorial Council continue in power, there would hardly be any difference despite the third Bodo accord," he said.
The first accord was signed with the All Bodo Students Union in 1993, leading to the creation of a Bodoland Autonomous Council with limited political powers.
In 2003, the second accord was signed with the militant group Bodo Liberation Tigers, leading to formation of a Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) with four districts of Assam -- Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri -- called Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD).
Hagrama Mohilary, the founder of Bodo People's Front party that dominates the BTAD politics, has been the Chief of BTC since its creation.
Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the slew of infrastructure projects promised in the accord, Basumatary cautioned that big ticket infrastructure will not see the light of the day until there is change in leadership of BTC administration.
"Infrastructure projects were part of even first and second Bodo accords decades ago, but the reason behind most of them remaining unimplemented till date is the unwanted dominance of certain people in the power," he said.
Under the new accord, 1,550 militants belonging to the NDFB laid down their arms on January 30. An economic programme of Rs 1,500 crore will be implemented in the next three years with equal contribution of Rs 750 crore each from the central and state governments.
Several infra projects such as a medical colleges, National Institute of Technology, Sports Authority of India centres in every Bodo area district, organic university, sports university among others have been sanctioned by the Centre.
Talking about the current situation, Promod Boro, former President of All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) and a signatory of the Bodo accord, said the Bodo people will get better governance only if the new system is able to accommodate every stakeholder.
"It is a trend and understanding of people that all the signatories of the accord should be in ruling of BTR in order to implement the clauses of accord and fulfil the commitment of leaders to the society," Boro, who was credited with reviving the Bodoland statehood demand in 2015, told PTI.
"People are hopeful of better administration and development in the region after implementation of all the parameters of the third peace accord," said Boro, who stepped down from the ABSU presidentship on Thursday to be able to contest the upcoming Bodo autonomous council election.
Meanwhile, Anjali Daimary, President of Bodo Women's Justice Forum, also emphasised that a proper political system is that which accommodates every stakeholder in a society.
"It becomes mandatory to have all the stakeholders in the new government in the Bodo Territorial Region. Until now whatever things were (there) have to change now in favour of the Bodo people," Daimary told PTI.