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The peace holds

Rocked by protests against the Centre’s proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Assam’s Bodo-populated areas were on edge for another reason last week. Over a decade after nine serial bombs ripped through four towns, the clamour for the death penalty to be awarded to the perpetrators had put the State on alert, after a district and sessions court set up for the CBI case had convicted 14 of them. The October 30, 2008 bombings exacted a severe toll. Eighty-eight deaths, 53 of them in Guwahati, with 540 injured, it was argued, passed the Supreme Court’s ‘rarest of the rare’ test. And yet, mindful of the “entire facts and circumstances of the case”, the judge on January 30 sentenced 10 of the convicted, including Ranjan Daimary, to life and handed out limited terms to the others. Most of the convicts belong to a faction of the National Democratic Front of Boroland, of which Daimary is the chairman. The NDFB(R) has had a ceasefire agreement with the Assam and Union governments since May 2005. The NDFB (Progressive), led by Gobinda Basumatary, is also in peace talks. Recent incidents in Bodo areas — including the May and December 2014 attacks against Muslim migrants and Adivasis, in which over 100 civilians were killed — have been attributed to the rebel NDFB faction, led earlier by I.K. Songbijit and now by B. Saoraigwra. These groups and their predecessors, many of which have given up arms and joined the formal political process, espouse causes ranging from secession to a Bodoland State carved out of Assam. The violent phase peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but ebbed with the creation of the Bodoland Territorial Council in 2003. It absorbed the likes of Hagrama Mohilary, formerly a Bodo Liberation Tigers militant, whose Bodoland People’s Front has been an alliance partner of both the erstwhile Congress-led State government and the current BJP regime of Sarbananda Sonowal. While NDFB(R) supporters chanted slogans demanding Bodoland to protest against the judicial order, a death sentence for Daimary could have sparked wider convulsions, and pushed some of the fringe groups back into militancy, creating a 1990s redux. The BJP has backed the creation of smaller States, but Bodoland is unlikely to be realised any time soon. The Bodo case for statehood is also hamstrung by the fact that non-Bodos account for nearly 70% of the population in the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts that will comprise the core of such a State. New Delhi is focussing instead on devolving more powers with its constitution amendment Bill — likely to be introduced in Parliament this week — to bring 10 autonomous district councils under the purview of the Central Finance Commission. Along with ideologically agnostic partnerships with the State government in Dispur, this is the way forward for now.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/the-peace-holds/article26179587.ece

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