Historic Bodo Accord: Beginning of an era of peace, progress & prosperity

Achinta Borah
It has been a long wait for the people of Assam and the Northeast, particularly the Bodo community, for a peaceful settlement to the nearly half-a-century old demand for a separate Bodoland state.
And when the final agreement was signed on January 27, in presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, it was a great relief to the people of the region since a lasting solution has come after decades of agitation, violence and death of over 4,000 people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Bodo accord will usher in a “new dawn of peace, harmony and togetherness” while Union Home Minister said the “historic agreement” will bring “peace, progress and prosperity in Assam”.
The tripartite agreement was signed by four factions of the Bodo insurgent group, the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), the All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU) and the United Bodo People's Organisation, the Government of India and the Assam Government. The ABSU has been spearheading a movement for a Bodoland state since 1972. The Bodo accord provides for political and economic benefits to the community without acceding to the demand for a separate state or Union Territory.
This was the third Bodo accord to be signed in 27 years. The first accord was signed with the ABSU in 1993, leading to the creation of a Bodoland Autonomous Council with limited political powers. In 2003, the second accord was signed with a Bodo militant group, Bodo Liberation Tigers, leading to the formation of a Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution with four districts of Assam -- Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baska and Udalguri -- named Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD). After the new accord, the existing BTAD will be renamed as Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) comprising areas covered under the BTAD. A commission will be appointed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to examine and recommend for inclusion of villages contiguous to BTAD and having majority Bodo tribal population as demanded by the Bodo organizations, exclusion of villages currently under BTAD which are contiguous to non-Sixth Schedule areas and have majority non-tribal population and increase in constituencies of the BTC upto the maximum of 60 seats, from present 40 seats, after alteration in the area, without adversely affecting the existing percentage of reservation of tribals.
Besides the Assam government, there will be representatives from the ABSU and the BTC in the Commission and it will submit its recommendations within six months from the date of notification. With the signing of the pact, the government has been successful in bringing the curtains down on decades of violent militancy in the Bodo dominated areas in the Northeast.
The accord is unique in the sense that it is the first peace pact in the Northeast where all the existing insurgent outfits, along with an influential students organization and a civil society group of a particular area or community have come together to sign an agreement with the government with a joint commitment to end violence and agitation and strive for peace and development.
Three days after the signing of the agreement, on January 30, over 1600 cadres of the NDFB surrendered their arms and ammunition before Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in Guwahati. Soon after the agreement was signed, the Prime Minister said the accord with the Bodo groups will lead to transformative results for the Bodo people.
“The Bodo Accord inked today stands out for many reasons. It successfully brings together the leading stakeholders under one framework. Those who were previously associated with armed resistance groups will now be entering the mainstream and contributing to our nation's progress," Modi said.
The Union Home Minister said with the signing of the “historic comprehensive Bodo settlement agreement, Assam’s territorial integrity is assured and it is a momentous occasion as harbinger of a golden future for the state”.
Shah also announced that the government will give a special development package of around Rs 1500 crore to undertake specific projects for the development of Bodo areas.
The Home Minister said it was a direct consequence of the Prime Minister Modi’s policy of focusing on the Northeastern region’s development.  The fruition of this vision can also be seen in the Bru-Reang agreement signed on January 16, 2020 to end the humanitarian crisis in Mizoram and Tripura.
Shah said that Assam’s territorial integrity is assured with this agreement as every single Bodo group has come on board. He noted that while earlier the states of Northeast used to feel neglected, Modi government ensured that a Union Minister visited the region every week in order to ensure effective implementation of government schemes and timely completion of infrastructure projects. The Home Minister said this agreement is another success of the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas, Sab ka Vishwas’ as Assam’s road to development has been cleared by the accord.
Ever since assuming office first time in 2014, Prime Minister Modi has initiated numerous policy level interventions that have improved infrastructure, connectivity, economic growth, tourism and social development of the region.
Talking on the salient features of the agreement, Shah said the objective of the pact is to increase the scope and powers of the BTC and to streamline its functioning; resolve issues related to Bodo people residing outside BTAD; promote and protect Bodo's social, cultural, linguistic and ethnic identities; providing legislative protection for the land rights of tribals; ensure quick development of tribal areas and rehabilitate members of NDFB factions. The Home Minister said in the past, not being satisfied with the settlements of 1993 and 2003, the Bodos have been consistently demanding more powers.
After the agreement, the NDFB factions will leave the path of violence and disband their armed organizations within a month of signing the deal. The Union Government and the Government of Assam will take necessary measures to rehabilitate over 1600 cadres of NDFB, as per the laid down policy of the government.
The Government of Assam will establish a Bodo-Kachari Welfare Council as per the existing procedure. The Assam government will also notify Bodo language as an associate official language in the state and will set up a separate directorate for the Bodo medium schools. The Assam chief minister said different communities in the state will be able to live with harmony after the signing of the accord and it will lay the foundation of a bright future, fulfilling aspirations of the people.
 "A historic day for peace and progress of Assam. The signing of the tripartite agreement under the guidance and leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah resolves a decades long conflict and permanently reaffirms the territorial integrity of Assam," Sonowal said.
President of the ABSU Pramod Boro said the Bodo people are grateful to the Modi government for bringing a permanent solution to a long standing problem. As the Bodo tribals wholeheartedly welcomed the agreement, a mega rally was organized in Kokrajhar in Assam on February 7 to celebrate the beginning of a new era, which is expected to bring peace, prosperity and development for the community. Addressing the grand rally, which was attended by over four lakh people, Prime Minister Modi said the event will be remembered for generations to come and he was thankful to all those who came to bless him.
Modi said the path of peace has been a long one and finally, the time of bloodshed is over. “We welcome all those who have joined the mainstream and rejected violence. No problem can ever be solved using violent means,” he said. The Prime Minister said it was a time of joy and celebration for the Bodo community. “I am sure the Bodo accord will bring progress and prosperity for the community and Assam,” he said. Modi also said those who ruled in the Northeast for decades did not have a vision for the region’s growth. “Blockades and violence were considered business as usual. Our approach is different and it has led to great outcomes,” he said. The Union Home Minister said the Modi government is a symbol of new hopes and the Bodo peace accord is yet another testimony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decisive leadership and his efforts to bring peace in Assam.
Courtesy PIB