Agitation for a separate state of Bodoland has taken a violent turn as the All Bodos Students Union (ABSU) called for a 12-hour 'rail roko' protest in Assam since Friday morning, disconnecting all the north-eastern states from the country.
"We are going to hold a 12-hour rail blockade on August 2. We have also called a 60-hour Assam bandh from August 5," ABSU leader had told IANS on July 31.
The Bodoland movement that began in the 1970's was revived when the UPA government endorsed the formation of India's 29th state of Telangana. The headquarters of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), Kokrajahar, has witnessed thousands from the Bodo tribe blocking the railway tracks.
Bodoland People's Front (BPF), which also runs the autonomous administrative body of BTC, is demanding 'same-level talks' from the Centre, just as during the Telangana issue. BPF President Hagrama Mohilary has insisted the Bodoland issue must be tabled at the monsoon session beginning 5 August.
Assam Violent Riots
Thousands of ABSU supporters blocked train tracks in Kokrajahar as a 'rail roko' protest since Friday morning. The Brahmaputra Mail from Delhi was stopped midway to Assam's capital Guwahati, reported NDTV. No arrests have been reported so far.
The BPF chief has warned the Centre of launching mass agitation if Bodoland is not given statehood like Telangana.
Who Supports Bodoland?
The Opposition Bharatiya Janat Party (BJP) has tried to reach out to the Bodo tribe in the past; after all it was under the BJP rule in 2003 that the autonomous executive body BTC was formed. But there has not been a word from any BJP leader supporting the BPF.
Moreover, the BPF delegation that met Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on 31 July handed him back the memorandum of 2003 that said there was no policy to create a separate state. The Bodoland movement might get a reaction if the issue is put across political parties during the Monsoon session in Parliament.
Who Stands Against?
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has ruled out any sort of bifurcation of the state. Assam has been divided thrice, to form Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, since independence.
"We do not want any more division of the state. We want to stay as one unit," Gogoi told TOI on Tuesday.
"The situation is Andhra Pradesh is different from ours. We should work to remove the tendency of people asking for separate states by addressing their grievances," he added,
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (an MP from Assam) has asked to redeploy forces in the state.
The students union is already gearing up for a mass rally along with the BPF. As the ABSU leader mentioned, Assam is going to experience a 60-hour shutdown from 5 August.
The civil situation in the state is going to get more violent as the state government is likely to follow the command by the Centre to redeploy forces.
While Congress might have endorsed Telangana in haste to gain votes for the next Lok Sabha elections, the party is yet to decide a strategy to deal with demands for Bodoland and the likes.
Other Assam Riots
Besides the Bodo movement, the state has witnessed an even more violent rebuttal from Karbi Anglong district.
Since 31 August, the district people have torched 10 vehicles and clashed with local police, which has now lead to an indefinite curfew in the region, as per reports.
Karbi Anglong as a separate state was first demanded in 1951. The movement has been revived by the banned militant group, Karbi Peoples' Liberation Tigers (KPLT). The KPLT has threatened to put out an indefinite strike if their demands are not brought forth in the monsoon session.
These renewed demands are not new for the far-east state of Assam. The state was divided first in 1963 to carve out Nagaland, then in 1971 for Meghalaya. Mizoram too was separated in 1971 as a union territory and was later coined as a state in 1985.