Fed up with the "betrayal" by the BJP, major Bodo groups in Assam are determined to go ahead with a 12-hour railway blockade on October 24 to revive the demand for a separate Bodoland state and "expose" the party that rules in the state and Centre.
The strike is being spearheaded by the National Democratic Front of Bodo (Progressive), in collaboration with the All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU) and People's Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement.
The Bodo groups say their faith in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to resolve the Bodoland issue was "misplaced" and they only got "false assurances" from the party -- during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the 2016 state elections.
The Bodos - Assam's biggest tribal community -- claim the BJP is not even ready to discuss the issue of Bodoland any more. Bodo leaders claim they were rebuffed by BJP leaders whenever they tried to approach them in the past one year.
"Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Rajnath Singh (then BJP President) had assured us that the Bodo issue would be resolved if the Bodos support the BJP. The party fed us with false promises. The thousands of cadre of Bodo militant groups, who gave up arms thinking they would get to realise the dream of Bodoland under the BJP, are now getting increasingly frustrated," Promod Bodo, President ABSU, told IANS.
"We have been betrayed, discriminated against, exploited and deprived by the BJP at the Centre, and at the regional level we have been suppressed and oppressed by the Assam government, though our party is part of the ruling coalition. The BJP is playing a game of political hegemony in the state. But we will do everything to achieve Bodoland," he said.
Bodo said his community is struggling to preserve its culture and identity.
The demand for Bodoland started in 1967. The struggle became an armed conflict after the formation of the Bodo Security Force, a militant group later rechristened NDFB. Currently, two factions of the NDFB -- NDFB (P) led by Gobinda Basumatary and NDFB led by Ranjan Daimary -- are in peace talks with the Centre, while NDFB (S) led by Songibijit I.K. is against holding talks with the Indian government under the Constitutional framework.
The Songibijit faction was responsible for the recent killing of 14 civilians in an attack in Assam's Kokrajhar district, that also left 20 injured.
The Bodo groups remained silent during the last couple of years waiting for the BJP to act on its assurance. The Bodo groups have decided to resort to a railway blockade on October 24, and are promising more severe measures of protest to make the government heed their demand.
Asked if the Bodo community was divided over the Bodoland issue, Promod Bodo denied any differences. He said the Bodo community was united and even the NDFB (S) was ready to join the negotiations if the government had a "proper policy" to resolve the Bodoland issue.
Gobinda Basumatary, General Secretary of NDFB (Progressive), told IANS: "We have been betrayed and exploited by the BJP. When the elections came in 2014, the BJP sought our support and assured us a small state within India. We supported the BJP and they came to power. But, in the last two years no talks on the statehood issue were held."
Basumatary, the first NDFB militant to give up arms and join the peace process, said during his three meetings with Home Minister Rajnath Singh and more than seven meetings with his deputy Kiren Rijiju over the past two years, there was no response to their demand for a separate state.
Another key NDFB leader, Ranjan Daimary, who has joined the peace process, has declined to join the revival plan for Bodoland. He feels that actively participating in the statehood agitation now would hamper the peace process.
"After declaration of the ceasefire on August 1, 2011, we entered into formal ceasefire on November 23, 2013, and since then we have been holding talks with the government. We support the movement for Bodoland led by ABSU, but right now we are not involved directly as we are engaged in political dialogue," Daimary told IANS.
(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted at Rupesh.firstname.lastname@example.org)
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