War of words makes Bodo politics murkier

June 12th, 2008 - 6:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, June 12 (IANS) Weeks after a frontline separatist group submitted its charter of demands to the government paving the way for peace talks, the political scenario in Assam’s Bodo tribal heartland has turned murkier with rival leaders engaging in a bitter war of words. The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), on a ceasefire with the authorities since 2005, seems set to begin peace negotiations that could bring more autonomy to the Bodo-dominated areas in northeastern India’s Assam state although the group’s main demand placed before New Delhi is unclear.

“Leaders of the erstwhile Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), who have come to run the Bodoland Territorial Council after reaching an agreement with the government and ending violence in 2003, have every reason to be wary of the nature of a similar deal that New Delhi may reach with their rivals in the NDFB,” said Topon Lal Baruah, president of the Guwahati-based think-tank, the Centre for Development and Peace Studies.

“The political space after all is limited. The former BLT leaders who now run the Bodo Council know that after a deal with the NDFB, there will be a race to occupy that limited political space. The government must talk to the present Bodo Council leaders too along with those of the NDFB,” Baruah, a former home commissioner of Assam, said.

Political temperatures in Bodo areas are already rising.

On Wednesday, U.G. Brahma, former Lok Sabha MP and a former president of the influential All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), accused Bodo Council chief Hagrama Mahilary, who had headed the Bodo Liberation Tigers, of a nexus with “some foreign insurgent groups”.

“Mahilary appears to have links with some foreign insurgent groups. He makes frequent trips abroad. In fact, I would prefer a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into Mahilary’s foreign trips and the rise in violence in the Bodo Council area,” Brahma said.

On his part, Bodo Council chief Mahilary has charged Brahma of having “ordered” the BLT, as president of the ABSU, to target NDFB cadres in the past.

“Now, Brahma has been using the NDFB to target former BLT cadres,” Mahilary said.

Brahma has denied the charges and sought to remind Mahilary that ABSU had brokered a truce between the two warring groups, the BLT and the NDFB.

The BLT was disbanded after the Bodo Accord of February 2003 that provided Mahilary and his group the opportunity to head the interim Bodo Council before he formed a political party and won the Council polls.

In the past three months, there have been several cases of fratricidal clashes between the NDFB and the former BLT cadres, leading to several deaths.

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