People's Democracy

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


No. 05

February 3, 2013




What is Happening in Bodo Areas


Noorul Huda


ON January 17, a six-member delegation from Assam submitted a memorandum to the union home minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, on the subject of violence that was committed in the Bodo Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD) in the period from July to October 2012 and on the situation subsequent to that violence. The delegation included Zamsher Ali, president of the BTAD Citizen Rights Forum, and Noorul Huda of the CPI(M), among others.

One notes that the BTAD comprises four districts, viz Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalgiri, in the state of Assam.

The memorandum pointed out that the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) raised the demand for a separate state of Bodoland in the year 1987, but the situation worsened in the following years when insurgent groups like the Bodoland Tigers (BLT) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) procured modern sophisticated weapons and ammunitions. Soon these groups started killing the cadres of one another and then began to target the non-Bodo people who constitute at least 70 per cent of the BTAD population of 31.5 lakhs. Of this population, Bengali Muslims account for 19 per cent, Bengali Hindus 17 per cent, Adivasis 17 per cent and Koch Rajbangsis 15 per cent, with a sprinkling of the Assamias and the Nepalese. On the other hand, the Bodos and other tribals form approximately 28 per cent of the BTAD population.

Thus, while raising the demand of separate Bodoland, armed Bodo extremists targeted the adivasis in 1996-98, attacking and killing 134 adivasis in Kokrajhar district and 11 others in the adjoining Dhubri district. This made the non-Bodo people think that it was a sort of ethnic cleansing.

While not much of progress was made on the demand of separate statehood, a tripartite Bodo Accord was signed between the central government, the state government and representatives of Bodo groups on February 10, 2012, giving a good deal of autonomy to the BTAD that was headed by the Bodo People’s Front (BPF). Though the accord set the precondition that the Bodo groups must hold a ceasefire and surrender their weapons to the state authorities of Assam, there has been very little in the name of surrender of arms. Armed miscreants have been freely moving everywhere in the BTAD areas, endangering the life, property and constitutional rights of the innocent and law abiding citizens.

Then there were large scale killings in the months of July and August 2012 and again in October 2012, targeting the minority Muslims in full view of the BTAD authorities and the state police and administration. For full four days from July 21 to 24, former cadres of the BLT, NDFB and BPF indulged in wanton killings, arson and loot in some places --- to such an extent that more than 4.82 lakhs of Muslims and Bodos had to flee from their hearth and home, and they sought refuge in relief camps. During these four days, there was no sight of the police and administration in the affected areas, and the state government remained a mute spectator until July 24 evening when the central paramilitary forces and some state forces were deployed to stop the massacre. Altogether 114 innocent people were killed, out of whom 80 were Muslims, 22 belonged to the Bodo community and nine could not be identified. The violence affected two districts (Kokrajhar and Chirang) in the main.

On the other hand, there has never been anything to show that there was a single Bangladeshi in the 80 Muslims killed. It is also worth mentioning that while most of the Muslims were shot dead, most of the killed Bodo tribals bore stab injuries.

For some time, the BTAD authorities as well as the communal and reactionary forces, backed by a sizeable section of media in Assam and outside Assam, have been continuously but falsely propagating that lakhs of Bangladeshi Muslims had illegally come over to Assam, including the BTAD areas, and that the recent killing in the BTAD areas were in fact clashes between the Bangladeshi foreigners and the indigenous people. This is not true at all.

In this regard, the memorandum submitted to the union home minister also quoted census figures of decadal increases (in percentage) in the BTAD population. These do not at all substantiate the contention of Bangladeshi infiltration.




































The situation is all the more saddening because all the communities including the Bodos and other tribals have been living in Assam (including the BTAD areas) for generations without any feeling of rancour, hatred or malice. Troubles started only after the demand for separate statehood was raised by the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) in 1987, followed by the start of armed militancy by the BLT and NDFB. As the Bodos and other tribals constitute less than 30 per cent of the BTAD population, there have been concerted moves to target the non-Bodo people with the view to driving out as many non-Bodos as possible from the BTAD areas. Hence the violent attacks on adivasis in 1996-98 and the recent murders and mayhem against the Muslim minority in 2012.

It is also to be noted that all the political parties in Assam had welcomed the earlier Bodo Accord of 2003 and formation of the BTAD. But the goodwill generated at that time could not be sustained because of the hostile attitude exhibited by the armed militants and by the top leadership of the BPF in the BTAD against the non-Bodo people who are forced to live in fear and trepidation.

The memorandum pointed out that at present more than 70,000 people, mostly Muslims, are living in 62 relief camps in the districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri. They are being denied a chance to return home unless they prove their Indian citizenship. More than three lakh people have returned home but they are being harassed and threatened.

It is in these circumstances that the BTAD Citizen Rights Forums has raised the following demands:

1) All those displaced during the 2012 disturbances must be properly rehabilitated and adequately compensated.

2) Job must be provided to at least one person in a victim family.

3) All the arms and ammunitions must be seized.

4) There must be CBI investigation into all serious cases.

5) A permanent solution must be evolved to the vexed problem of Bangladeshi infiltration. The Indo-Bangladesh border must be sealed.

6) The creation of a National Register of Citizens, with photo identity cards, must be expedited.

7) Land pattas must be issued to permanent residents.

8) Punishment must be meted out to all the culprits of communal and ethnic clashes.

9) A human rights commission must be set up for the BTAD areas.

The memorandum also stressed that the central and state governments must be on constant vigil and that they must ensure an end to all kinds of violent activities by firmly tackling the communal and separatist forces so that confidence is restored among all sections of the people in the BTAD areas.

The memorandum expressed the hope that all political parties in Assam would exert maximum possible effort to create public opinion in favour of restoration of peace and tranquillity in BTAD areas at the earliest.

On his part, the union home minister listened to the explanations offered by the delegation, and contended that the central government was alive to the situation and would do the needful.