Bodoland Statehood Movement- History, Causes and Overview

“Assam must be divided today or tomorrow to ensure tribal rights as once this land belonged to the tribal of Bodo origin and other ethnic groups” – the Bodo student body insisted. The very statement talks of division, difference, exclusive and separatist minds of individuals. Now, what is the origin of a state? Isn’t it a fact that the Indian mainland was slowly and initially inhabited by people who migrated from different parts of the continent? Isn’t India an identity for all Indians? Aren’t we Indians firstly and lastly?  In 1987, the ABSU under the leadership of Upendra Nath Brahma, who is called the Father of the Bodos formally, announced the statehood movement. It is an established truth that the Northern part of Assam which is heavily occupied by the tribal of Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri has been subjects of negligence. The tribal has been isolated for the longest time, their language culture and ethnicity has been different from other parts of the state and the ignorance of the government towards their needs has resulted in the complicated set of demands for autonomy and opposition to migrants for movements of secession. The movement is dynamic and contains fascinating experiences of the people suffering from a wide range of social dilemmas and how they respond to their leaders who according to me are “power hungry individuals”.

bodo movement

Bodo: A separatist movement

India is a union of states and it has been an elaborate process to unite the princely provinces and the British-run states under the common banner of India. Many families shattered in the process, armies lost their lives and negotiations formed the base of the union. If we go back to the initial days of the post-colonial period, we will find voracious fervour of individuals, narratives of cries that run pretty deep in the blood of each Indian even today. We also find disapproved and unconventional ways of drawing boundaries. Writers of those times have first headedly scribbled the unintentional fame of the tribal people that the Creation of India frowned upon them and the unrecognised conscious through which they reminisced their zeal to come to the real picture of an independent India.

Thereby, factors like religion, caste, creed, ethnicity, or language should be directed towards unification and not division. India has a unique feature of multi-cultural existence and that should be deemed to be the strength of the nation. Diversity needs to be inclusive of all and not based on a hierarchy. The government of Assam has unfortunately built social strata in terms of unequal distribution of central funding. It is like a ladder, the next step is reached after stepping the first. The comparatively developed regions are prone to more opportunities and investment and the Bodoland region serves with the leftovers of the pre-existent fund. This has not only created a rage of equality and development but has brought a feeling of “not belonging” which is fearful in nature. Negligence, regionalism, and indifference have resulted in the crisis of existence and the question of ethnic identity.

The identity crisis

Identity has two sides of the story. It identifies people in terms of their gender, religion, language, ethnicity, caste, etc. Identity can be positively used to date back to one’s history for a progressive and healthy idea of India’s rich origins. On the other hand, Identity can be a source of exploitation. To attach the emotions of one’s belongingness for a greater political goal is simply a sad reality. Some individuals use the name of identity to misguide people and develop a feeling of rage within the community for fulfilling their larger political agenda. For Bodoland, yes there are issues that should be given more attention but that are to be solved by living within the already existent state of Assam which was exponentially formed on the basis of language.

Will the formation of a new state be a solution for the Bodo?

Hardly have we seen the assumed Bodo leaders speak for better education, health, job opportunities, and a proper wage for the farmers. All they demand is for a separate state for they are not cared enough and are oppressed. When we speak of oppression or struggle it cannot be limited to a particular region, oppression is existent in all parts of the world, only the type and situation varies. Farmers all around the country are facing problems, tribal people of the country are in general treated to be backwards and the Government at all levels have every responsibility to address them. But to form a new state and not have the resources is rather an improved version of punishing the people for being recognised as a Bodo. This is more gratifying and it manages to be a less splendid facetious satire on the Tribal community. All of us are born in an earthly combination; we are accustomed to the life in the region and have actually grown to develop a sense of togetherness during the times we have lived together. This imagined feeling should be recognised and worked upon. To form a state, the socio-political, economic, and geographical factors should be consistently serving. Well in this case, with no fulfilling source of economic politics or society, it would only lead to doom and more destruction making the common people prone to slavery and further heinous oppression. What should keep them hooked is that behind the isolation there is an Easter egg hidden that is connected to one another to lead a bigger mysterious syndicate behind all of it. The crimes are complex and dark, the constant bickering and love-hate partnership of the Bodos and the Assam state government is of grief. The protagonists of the whole movement (the Bodos), are highly depressed and tormented yet a separation is not the solution, not now not ever.

Is division evil?

The six-year-long vigorous Bodoland movement resulted in the signing of the first tripartite Bodo Accord on February 20, 1993. Bodoland became an autonomous administrative unit constituted under the sixth schedule of the constitution of India covering an area of 8,795km administered by the Bodoland autonomous council. Further peace movements were revived in 1996 & 2003. Despite this, if granted statehood, the very essence of the movement will be lost. The Bodo leaders who are vehemently protesting for the declaration of a new state based on identity would then be heavily inclined towards power, corruption, and exploitation directed towards people they now call their own family. It is the law of nature that identity for most individuals falls short in front of power (THE GADDI). Recognition of people in terms of their identity is merely a means of exploitation and division in this case. The formation of Bodoland cannot liberate the people, rather an empathetic and functional government can. These issues should not be identified as a community crisis but a governance crisis. It is the mishap of the Government of India and the Government of Assam to have not worked for the common goal of unifying people under an umbrella for a better tomorrow. The Bodo problem is a “tribal issue” and should be collectively solved than divisive politics. The divide and rule policy never brought good to the people during the colonial period and neither will because our strength lies in diversity.

Also Read: Tribal Sub Plan Approach

Unity in diversity

The Bodoland Movement is valid and recognised. It is a sensitively appealing issue as it deals with the emotion of the masses but this can only be solved when people of all strata facing similar crisis come forward for a common movement irrespective of caste, creed, religion, language or ethnicity. People have many identities and exploitation of this multiple recognition can be a cause of turmoil and indifference. With proper negotiations and a government for all people living within the state, the Bodoland movement will find real recognition. To embrace the togetherness and the unity of the region, each individual should be in tune with scientific socialism and dialectical materialism. The pro-con for this Movement should be addressed in a peaceful manner rather than a mere declaration of statehood with no foundation for its functioning. India is a land for all to co-exist in diversity.

Share on:

I am a student of Jadavpur University pursuing Bachelors in Political Science from the Department of International Relations. I am extremely passionate about women issues and rights , global health crisis, socio- political concerns and mental health issues. I try advocate them in every possible way, be it through speaking or writing.