Speed News Today Column
KOKRAJHAR, 02 Oct:: 20th February, 1993, the First Bodo Peace Accord for creating an autonomous legislative and administrative body within the state of Assam was signed with the All Bodo Students Union, Bodo Volunteer Force and Bodo People’s Action Committee. The accord was hardly implemented after the passes of two years of signing, creating strong sense of betrayal amongst the movement leadership, forcing many of the leaders to go underground and become more ferocious to demand a separate state of Bodoland on the northern bank of Brahmaputra for safe and secured homeland for the plains tribals of Assam. The armed conflict between the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) and government forces took thousands of lives, hundreds were disabled, homes and properties destroyed. The mayhem and chaos affected every spheres of life. After a bloody armed conflict followed by ceasefire, BLT and Government of India backed by powerful students body. All Bodo Students Union signed the second Bodo Peace Accord on 10th of February 2003 to form Bodoland Territorial Council a separate legislative and administrative set up under the sixth schedule of Indian Constitution.
Upon signing the Second Bodo Peace Accord, people by and large breathed peace in the region. With the signing of ceasefire agreement between NDFB and Government of India, common people were much more hopeful of the lasting peace in the region. An interim government was installed in the Bodoland Territorial Council headed by the former Chairman of BLT and 12 members drawn mostly from the Bodo Movement activists.
On the expiry of two years of interim government when the election was to be conducted, the top rank leaders of the Bodo Movement were in logger heads coupled with mistrust and ploy against each other to be in the corridors of power. The political war broke out amongst the leadership who led the Bodo movement until the second peace accord successfully. The political contradiction and tussle for power resulted in physical violence. Former militants and insurgent groups in ceasefire agreement fought with each other brutally. The political opponents, social activists, journalists and academician became victims. Whoever tried to raise voice was silenced. Hundreds of people were murdered. From 2005 to 2010 there were 158 cases of murder were officially reported. There of course unreported cases too. Amidst all these chaos and instability, the Udalguri-Darrang riot in 2008, the infamous ethnic conflict of 2012 engulfing the western Assam districts of Bongaigaon, Chirang, Dhubri and Kokrajhar, the mass killings of May and December 2014 occurred. Peace became elusive words. Social workers, academician, intellectuals, journalists and common masses almost gave up hopes for a peaceful future.
It is at this critical juncture, several peace activists with Gandhian principles rallied behind All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) to take the leadership to take the path of non-violence and satyagraha. Sometimes in October 2008, Mr. Niketu Iralu and his partner Ms. Christine Iraly organized workshops for all the central leadership of ABSU on the principles of Moral Rearmament Movement; what is now called as Initiative of Change. This workshop was followed by series of workshops, seminars, meetings and rallies. When the baton of leading ABSU was handed over to Pramod Boro, he dipped into it seriously. He built further alliances with different Gandhian organizations and institutions. When the flames of violence were engulfing everywhere, ABSU under the leadership of Pramod Boro organized 2nd October Gandhi Jayanti in 2009 at the heart of Kokrajhar town which was attended by Lt. Natwar Bhai Thakkar a noted Gandhian who founded Nagaland Gandhi Ashram and Dr. Sunil Kaul who founded the action northeast trust to promote peace and justice in the region. Many of his colleagues and leadership in general were apprehensive of the strategy adopted by him. However, Mr. Boro firmly believed violence excluded people and in non-violence everyone can participate. This principle of him received solid backings from noted Gandhians including Rajmahan Gandhi. During the ethnic conflict of 2012, ABSU provided full backing to the peace yatras carried out by Gandhians from across the country earning the organization, the trust, love and respect from senior Gandhians. The Vice Chancellor of Gujrat Vidyapeet, the University which was founded by Mahatma Gandhi himself invited Pramod Boro to attend an international Workshop which was led by none other than Johan Galtung an octogenarian Norwegian Anthropologist with Gandhian believes. The application of Gandhian principles in the political demands of ASBU received praises across the board. Noted Gandhian such as Radha Behen, Suresh Khetri and others joined hands. Leading intellectuals and journalist like Prof. Shanta Sinha, Ms. Patricia Mukhim, Mr. Samudra Gupta Kashyap and the likes rallied behind the ideas of non-violence and Satyagraha propagated by ABSU to achieve their demands.
Under Pramod Boro’s leadership ABSU resumed the demand for a separate state of Bodoland in 2010. Very few people took him seriously. There were few peaceful sporadic agitations for this demand, while the community was divided fully. However, the fast unto death hunger strike that he Pramod led from the front at the heart of Kokrajhar town sent shock waves across the region. The hunger strike was started on 10th of March 2013 and lasted for four days. From the second day onwards, hundreds and thousands of people joined the hunger strike. As the media reported deteriorating health of activists going into fast unto death especially of Pramod Boro, common people flooded the venue and started joining the fast. Seeing the consequences, on 14th of March 2013, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India appealed the activist to end the fast and sent an invitation letter for a talk. The people were really jubilant with the success as this was the first official tripartite talk between ABSU, NDFB (P), Government of Assam and Government of India. After this Pramod never looked back, always stood for Gandhian principles and if at all there are grievances used the ready-made tool of Satyagraha.
ABSU activist started engaging themselves in constructive work and activism. In 2007 while trouble mongers were busy with violence, under Rwngwra Narzary’s leadership 400 activists took out a bi-cycle rally covering more than 4000 kilometers across Assam. In 2012 ethnic violence where more than 109 people were killed and half a million people had to take refuge in government relief camps, ABSU in collaboration with state machineries reached out to the estranged communities and worked for reconciliations. In 2014, when un-identified militants killed 76 innocent Adivashis, ABSU under Pramod Boro’s leadership reached out to All Adivashi Students Association. Both student bodies swung into action and doused the fire of ethnic conflict within two days.
One of the missions that ABSU took up was, building violence and illegal arms free society. One can visibly see this slogan on every public walls of Bodo dominated areas of Assam. The untiring walk on the path of non-violence in the region devastated by violence and use of satyagraha where people have seen only arms and weapons in life finally worked. After almost a decade of walking on the path of non-violence and using satyagraha ABSU led by Pramod Boro not only singed a comprehensive Peace Accord involving all the four factions of National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), ending decades of insurgency movement but has ignited new imagination of peace, justice and sustainable development in the region where all the section of the society will have their pie.
On 151st birth anniversary of world’s most powerful person who led the successful freedom movement of a largest democratic country in the world, India; without shedding a single drop of blood, third Bodo Peace Accord signed on 27th of January 2020 which is achieved solely through Satyagraha and non-violent means is greatest tribute to the Father of the Nation in this century.