North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

[op-ed snap] Optimal delivery or mere optics in Bodo peace deal?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- 6th Schedule, Demand for separate states in North-East.

Context

It is to be seen if the pact will lead to true autonomy, true peace, and true development.

What the pact involved?

  • Which groups signed the deal?
    • Four factions of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), along with an influential Bodo students’ organization and a Bodo civilian pressure group, signed the peace agreement with the central and Assam governments.
  • What are the major concessions given?
    • The Bodoland Territorial Area Districts, the name given to Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri, the four contiguous districts bordering Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh, will now be known as Bodoland Territorial Region.
    • Acknowledgement of Bodo homeland: The changed nuance from districts to the region is significant as it acknowledges a Bodo homeland within the state of Assam, without separating from Assam.
    • Why this acknowledgement matters: This is dialled down from earlier rebel demands for a breakaway state and later suggestions for Union territory status.
  • What is the significance of the change from district to the region?
    • Satisfying identity aspiration: The renaming is designed to satisfy the identity and aspirations of the Bodo people.
    • Not ceding territory solved tricky matter: Renaming also solved the politically tricky matter of ceding territory for the government of Assam.
    • Ceding territory would also have fuelled similar demands from the other parts of the state like- Karbi Anglong, Dima Hasao and Cachar, which also have homelands of non-Ahom ethnicities.
    • Avoiding similar demand from other states: Indeed, it could have affected the ongoing Naga peace process, leading Naga rebels to demand territorial and administrative autonomy in Naga homelands in Manipur.

Scope of the success of the pact

  • Inherent vulnerability: There is already an inherent vulnerability to the Bodo peace deal even without the overhang of ceding territory.
    • This is rooted in the birth of the Bodo rebellion, which began in the 1980s on account of administrative and development apathy of the state of Assam.
  • Feeling of subsuming in Bodo: A feeling that Bodo, the people, the language, the identity, was subsumed by the Assamese and migrants.
  • The relation between NDFB and the Front: The Bodoland People’s Front, is in majority in the District council. Will the front be comfortable with newly peaceable colleagues of NDFB?

Conclusion

The Government of Assam needs to ensure that the pact signed changes the situation on the ground and leads to a development on the ground. The state also needs to allay the fears in the Bengali-speaking minority. Moreover, true autonomy, true peace, and true development are always worth more than the paper on which they are promised.

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