People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 35

September 02, 2012



Normal Situation

Yet to Return in BTAD


Uddhab Barman


PEACE and normalcy, which is of utmost necessity at present in Assam, is yet to return. This is particularly so in the districts of Chirang  and Kokrajhar in  Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) and in some neighbouring areas of Dhubri district. Stray incidents of killings continue to take place. On August 22, three persons were killed while they were fishing at Bangaldoba in the Kokrajhar-Dhubri border areas by an armed gang. They belonged to minority community. Six persons  belonging to the religious minority, who were coming back to their demolished houses from the relief camps in two Tata vans, were attacked midway and hacked to death by a group of  20-25 persons  in Chirang district on August 25. The very next day, in the early morning, a family of eight members, including children, was ambushed by a group when they were coming to catch a train  at Salakati railway station to go to Dhubri town. Female members and the children were seriously injured as they could not flee. On the night  of August 27, groups of  armed miscreants attacked villages with guns and grenades almost simultaneously in two areas in Kokrajhar district. One area was Pakharitol near Fakiragram while the other was Chowtaki near Salakati, separated by a distance of nearly 30 km. Many houses were set on fire, injuring many. Such violence is continuing in many parts at the time of writing this. All these violent incidents are taking place even after the promises made by the government of providing safety and security to all those affected in the Bodo-Muslim clashes. It seems that groups of people have been actively at work in a planned manner to keep up conditions of  tension and violence in various parts of BTAD. The CBI enquiry, it is hoped, will unearth the causes and identify the forces responsible for these clashes.




The present phase of the clashes between Bodos and Muslims were practically triggered off with the killing of two Muslims by unidentified gunmen on July 6 followed by the incident on July 19 of shooting by unidentified gunmen at two leaders, respectively of the All Bodoland Minority Students Union and All Assam Minority Students Union, who were seriously injured. Again on July 20, four former Bodoland Tiger Force workers were killed in Joypur, a predominantly Muslim-dominated village near Kokrajhar town. This was followed by a series of violent and counter violent activities by the miscreants. Panic  and rumours spread like wildfire among people in interior villages, especially among the Bodos and Muslims. The panic-stricken people began to flee their houses with whatever they could carry  to  take shelter in the relief camps for safety and security, leaving  behind their houses and properties to the mercy of the miscreants who indulged in arson, destruction and looting. More than 5000 houses were burnt and 45,000 families and 244 villages had been affected. Over 4 lakh people had to take shelter in 278 relief camps. About  90 persons were killed.


The deployment of central para-military forces first and then of the army on the night of July 24 in the BTAD and adjoining Dhubri and Bongaigaon districts helped in controlling the situation of violence and anarchy. However, it is very clear now that the initial delay of the state government in rushing adequate security forces to quell the clashes led to such a serious situation of human tragedy in the BTAD and neighbouring district of Dhubri.





The Bodo Accord was signed on February 20, 2003 between the Bodo Liberation Tiger Force, government of India and government of Assam. They  agreed to constitute within Assam an autonomous council under the amended provision of Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, with the hope that such an arrangement would bring  peace and development in the BTAD. This council has jurisdiction over an area of  8970 square kilometers covering four districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri. The Bodoland Territorial Council, born out of the Bodoland Accord, has been ruled by the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) led by Hagrama Mahilary, winning majority in two BTC elections held so far since the signing of the accord.


The BTAD area has been an insurgency-afflicted area before the signing of the Accord. After the Accord, although many insurgent groups declared ceasefire, they are still in possession of  plenty of sophisticated  arms and ammunition. There were many occasions when incidents of fratricidal killings took place among the activists and supporters of the rival armed groups of the Bodos in 2008 and 2009. Moreover, like Assam, which is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-national state, the BTAD has the population of not only Bodos but also Adivasis, Koch-Rajbonshi, religious and linguistic minorities and other communities,  with the Bodos being the  major community in the area.


In the recent period, the non-Bodo organisations  have raised allegations that the BTC authority has been depriving the non-Bodos of the share of developmental activities and resorting to  large- scale corruption. Some of the non-Bodo organisations have been agitating and launching movements demanding the redrawing of the boundary of the BTAD area, excluding the villages where the non-Bodos are in dominant majority and opposing the demand of separate Bodoland raised by some Bodo organisations to be  carved out of present  state of Assam. On the other hand, the BPF leadership has been trying to mobilise all Bodo organisations and prominent Bodo intellectuals engaged in different fields. It held a Bodo National Convention, apparently for socio-cultural development of the Bodo society. But the NDFB(P), led by Gobinda Basumatary, dissociated from the Bodo National Convention on the plea that the BPF leadership is not serious with the demand for separate Bodoland and  the NDFB(P), on its own, has been organising movement on this demand.


As a result, there is an ongoing tussle and simmering tension among the leadership  of different Bodo groups over who will have the hegemony among  the Bodo people and society. This situation, coupled with an acute sense of deprivation  working up among the non-Bodo people and  their anger  over the extortion, kidnapping and killing by the insurgent outfits and former militant groups, has kept the society very tense. A small incident could ignite clashes between communities. The incidents of July 6, 19 and 20 acted as the ignition elements to the powder keg.




BJP stalwart L K Advani, who came to Assam and visited the affected areas, set the pace to communalise the situation. He said that the present clashes are not clashes between Bodos and Muslims living in the BTAD areas but clashes between the native Bodo people and the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. The BPF and  other Bodo organisations  have echoed this understanding and sentiment. Hagrama Mahilary, chief of BTC, stated in a statement that the violence was carried out by an organised, armed gang coming from across the Bangladesh border and  he demanded sealing of the border. Some other organisations in the state have demanded detection and deportation of the illegal Bangladeshi migrants taking March 25, 1971 as the cut-off date before rehabilitation of displaced persons belonging to the religious minority in the BTAD areas.


Vague claims have been made that the number of the illegal Bangladeshis has been growing in leaps and bounds in the state of Assam, including in Kokrajhar district. Subscribing to such views, some organisations in the state talk of the urgency of the revival of the anti-foreigner movement once again. But such propositions have been  without a sound basis and are not justified by the Census reports. According to the  Census reports, the decadal growth rates of population in India during the decades of 1991-2001 and 2001-2011 are respectively 21.54 per cent and 17.64 per cent. During the same period, the  decadal growth rates in Assam are 18.92  per cent and 16.93 per cent  respectively, the decline indicating no abnormal growth. The decadal  growth rates  of population in Kokrajhar district during these two decades of 1991-2001 and 2001-2011 are respectively 14.49 per cent and 5.19 per cent. Moreover, among the population in Kokrajhar district, according to 2001 Census, the Bodos constitute 32.37 per cent, the Bengalis 21.06 per cent, Assamese 20.01 per cent  and the Santhals 16.70 per cent. The Bodos constitute the majority.


It is to be noted that in the BTAD areas, most of the Muslims are settlers  who settled here after becoming victims of  flood and erosion of the Brahmaputra and other rivers. They were rehabilitated here. They have lived in close proximity for many years with other communities, including the Bodos. Even in the midst of the present carnage, Bodos and Muslims are living together in many villages in the affected districts, peacefully standing on guard against the miscreants. Hence, many among Bodos and Muslims suspect the designs of vested interests behind the present carnage.


The exodus of youth of Assam from the cities of  southern states has its social and economic impact on Assam. These persons have migrated to those cities for jobs and for study. Though many have remained there, thousands of youth, terrorised by rumours and in few cases by threats as well as by  requests from the family, had to make perilous train journeys to reach Assam. Some 11 youth lost their lives at the hands of miscreants during the journey. Not conversant with the current developments in the  state centering around the Bodo-Muslim clashes, a section of these youth is fed with communal campaign.


The BJP and other Hindutva forces have been trying to utilise the Bodo-Muslim clashes in the BTAD areas to communalise the entire society in Assam. Many BJP leaders and RSS functionaries have visited Assam and campaigned on  the issue of  clashes between the ‘native versus illegal Bangladeshis’ and have been trying to rope in some tribal organisations and intellectuals in these hate campaigns. On the other hand, some of the minority leaders, including Badaruddin Ajmal, MP, made provocative statements. They also accused the BPF leadership of engineering these clashes to cleanse out the minority people from the BTAD areas. Some of them demanded dissolution of BTC. To fish in the troubled waters, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad organised communal campaigns and called for an Assam bandh on August 27 demanding the arrest of Badaruddin Ajmal, along with other demands. The RSS has supported the bandh call. In a similar way, some minority organisations have held protest demonstrations against the frequent attacks on the minority people, demanding security and rehabilitation of the displaced people due to the Bodo–Muslim clashes. The two Assam bandh calls -- one by the Bajrang Dal-RSS on August 27 and  the other by United Movement for People’s Rights, a platform of 31 organisations  including All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) -- have created grounds for communal division as these bandhs were  marked with  stray violence. As a result of these campaigns and movements, along with the fresh violence associated with these bandhs, the situation in Assam continues to be extremely volatile.




The Assam government -- a Congress-led coalition with BPF -- failed to anticipate the simmering  discontent and conflicts brewing  in the BTAD areas in recent times because it was complacent after being in power for a decade. So, when the clashes took a serious turn, it failed to act decisively to control and prevent the clashes. Afterwards, curfew was clamped and military and para-military forces deployed on July 24 in the affected districts, bringing the situation under control to a great extent. But  it has failed to strengthen and activise the law-enforcing authority in BTAD. The police administration in BTAD remains as weak as before, starved of even adequate number of police personnel.


The prime minister, former home minister P Chidambaram and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by present home minister Shinde, visited the disturbed areas in Assam at different points of time. The prime minister during his visit on July 28 announced a Central Relief Package of Rs 300 crore for relief and rehabilitation of the violence affected people. Other leaders from the centre assured the victims of adequate security, relief materials,  medical care and early rehabilitation. But the conditions of the relief camps and the quality of materials supplied are such that many inmates in the camps have become sick and some of them have died. Although the state government has declared that the rehabilitation process would be completed by August 15, it is nowhere near that. In fact the process is facing big hurdles due to lack of security measures and  the prevalence of terror and the regular and murderous attacks on those who attempted to go back to their places of residence. The deputation of teams of ministers to the violence–hit areas to monitor the relief and rehabilitation  works has so far failed to improve the situation. An all party meeting and a meeting of the editors of the media called by the chief minister to create opinions for restoration of confidence and amity among various sections of people in the affected areas is yet to bear results, as the situation in the BTAD areas is every day worsening due to the activities of the armed groups.




The displaced persons, belonging to both the Bodos and the Muslims, want to go back to their respective places of residences at the earliest, but the laxity in the security measures stands in their way. The state government has claimed that more than two lakh displaced persons have returned to their respective residences. The BPF leadership has put three conditions in the case of rehabilitation: (a) those who have land pattas and  names in the electoral lists will get first preference, (b) the second preference will be given to those who have  only names in the voters’ lists, (c) the persons without land pattas and names in the voters’ lists will not be allowed to be rehabilitated in the BTAD areas. The state government of Assam maintains that only Indian citizens among the displaced persons will be rehabilitated in the BTAD areas. The central government has also declared that a tripartite committee will be formed to monitor the rehabilitation process. So, it remains to be seen how the state government and the BTC authority will proceed in the rehabilitation process when the armed groups are also active in launching fresh attacks on people belonging to the religious minority. The displaced persons going returning from the relief camps to their places of residence have been brutally attacked and killed in some places by armed gangs. There is speculation that the centre is thinking of  handing over some districts of the BTAD to the control of the army.




While condemning the violent ethnic clashes and the failure of the state government in containing the violence, the CPI(M) has tried to mobilise people for restoration of peace and normalcy among the affected people, particularly unity between the Bodos and the Muslims. The priority task in the critical situation is to curb violence and to restore peace and unity among the the people. It has organised peace processions and public meetings in various places, particularly in lower Assam. A meeting of intellectuals and other prominent personalities was organised at Guwahati to mobilise opinion for peace. The Party also called for strengthening of the BTC on the basis of ensuring democratic, cultural and land rights of the people living in BTAD. It has also submitted a memorandum to the chief minister of Assam urging him to take steps to end violence and restore peace and understanding among Bodos and Muslims, to seize the illegal arms and ammunition, to arrange supply of adequate relief materials and medical aid to the victims, to provide security and safety to the people and rehabilitate the displaced people in their own places of residences and compensation for their losses, to restore academic life with free supply of books and uniforms to the students, to help the peasantry with free supply of seedlings, seeds etc’, to speedily update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state taking the 1971 voters’ list as the basis, etc. The Party appeals to all sections of people to come out to prevent fratricidal clashes and to restore peace and normalcy for building confidence and mutual trust. The Party also appeals to the people to fight and defeat the machinations of the divisive and communal forces who are out to disrupt peace and harmony. It also declares its opposition to the dissolution of BTC as demanded by some organidations. The CPI(M) will work for building up unity  of all Left, democratic and secular  forces and peace-loving people in the state for restoring peace and communal harmony.