North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Still no finality, the third time round

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Bodo peace accord, issues involved.

Context

There are indications that the new Bodo accord does not spell closure of the statehood movement by Bodo groups.

Power-sharing experiment under the Sixth Schedule

  • Sixth Schedule expected as a panacea: The experiment of power-sharing and governance under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution was expected to be the panacea of the ethno-nationalist identity questions in the Northeastern States.
  • Complexities of exclusion: Euphoria, as well as anger over the third Bodo Accord, have, however, held the mirror reflecting the complexities of exclusion of communities in such ethnocentric power-sharing and governance model.

Specifics of the new Accord

  • The new Accord was signed by the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), United Bodo People’s Organisation and all the four factions of the insurgent outfit- National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) with Delhi and Dispur on January 27.
    • It promises more legislative, executive and administrative autonomy under the Sixth Schedule to Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and expansion of the BTC territory in lieu of statehood.
  • The Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD), the autonomous region governed by BTC, will be known as Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) after demarcation of the augmented territory.

The emergence of the faultlines in the new Accord

  • What went wrong in the previous Accord? The previous Bodo Accord signed by the erstwhile insurgent outfit, Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) with Delhi and Dispur on February 10, 2003, led to the creation of the BTC as a new experiment of territorial autonomy under the Sixth Schedule.
    • No assent by the Governor to any BTC legislation: The constitutionally mandated legislative power of the BTC has been reduced to a farce as the Assam Governor has not given assent to any of the legislation passed by the BTC Legislative Assembly.
  • Intensification of demand for Kamatapur State: Bodo groups have suspended their statehood movement.
    • The new Bodo Accord has triggered the intensification of the movement for Kamatapur State by organisations of the Koch-Rajbongshi community.
    • Overlapping territory: The territory of the demanded Kamatapur State overlaps with the present BTAD, proposed BTR and demanded Bodoland.
  • Demand for ST status: Clamour for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status by the Koch-Rajbongshis, Adivasis and several other non-ST communities has also grown.
  • Faultlines over ST status: Deeper ethnic faultlines in an ethnocentric power-sharing model will become exposed when the Koch-Rajbongshis and the Adivasis are granted ST status, as promised by the government.
    • For, the reservation of seats of BTC is for the STs and not exclusively for the Bodos.
    • The new accord has no clear answer to such critical questions.
    • In BTAD, the ST communities account for 33.50% of the total population and the Bodos account for over 90% of the ST population in the BTAD.
    • The ST populations are an overwhelming majority in territories overseen by nine other autonomous councils under the Sixth Schedule in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.
  • Minority governing majority: Such a demographic composition in the BTAD has allowed the space for political mobilisation of other non-Bodo communities.
    • It also allowed the articulation of the campaign that the BTC is a faulty model as it allows the minorities to govern the majorities.
    • Exclusion demand: The organisations of these communities have been demanding exclusion of villages with less than 50% Bodo population from the BTAD.
  • Counter argument by Bodos: Bodo organisations have a counter-argument that non-Bodo is a political identity construction articulated to capture power in the BTAD by certain political forces.
  • The new accord promises to increase the current strength of BTC to 60 from 40 but “without adversely affecting the existing percentage of reservation for tribal[s]”.
  • Constitutional provision for dealing with such situations: Sub-paragraph 2 of the first paragraph of the Sixth Schedule provides that, “If there are different Scheduled Tribes in an autonomous district, the Governor may, by public notification, divide the area or areas inhabited by them into autonomous regions.”
    • However, constitutional amendments were made following the previous Bodo Accord to ensure that this provision shall not apply in respect of the BTAD.
  • What could be the solution to the present situation? The provision of setting up regional autonomous councils under the Sixth Schedule can be explored to create the space for communities aggrieved by exclusion from the power-sharing model of BTC.

Provision of commission

  • The new accord promises to appoint a commission by the Assam government.
    • What the commission will deal with? It will look into the demands for inclusion of villages with ST majority and contiguous to the BTAD, and exclusion of villages which are contiguous to non-Sixth Schedule areas and have majority non-ST population.
    • However, the core area of the BTAD will continue to have many villages with majority non-ST population which were included for contiguity.

Evaporating of euphoria over the accord

  • Failure in uniting the four factions: Euphoria among the Bodos over the accord is also fast evaporating with efforts to unite all the four factions of NDFB having turned futile.
    • The factions are divided into two camps.
    • The new accord will be the pivot of political mobilisation in the BTAD during the forthcoming BTC elections due in April.
  • Revival in homeland demand: A shift in the political equilibrium in the BTC resulting from a likely expansion of the ST list in Assam has the potential to keep the Bodos out of power in the BTC and push Bodo organisations to revive their homeland demand

Conclusion

Peace will continue to be fragile in Assam’s Bodo heartland until an all-inclusive power-sharing and governance model is evolved under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule.

 

 

 

 

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