The Union home ministry on January 27th, 2020 signed a historic Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) with all the factions of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and Assam government.
The tripartite agreement was signed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, top leadership of the four factions of the NDFB, All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), and the Centre. The ABSU, which has been spearheading the statehood movement, was also a signatory.
The factions of NDFB viz Gobindo Basumatary faction, Dhirendra Bodo faction, Ranjan Daymari faction & Saoraigwra faction and the United Bodo Peoples Organization (UBPO) are the signatories of the Accord.
Tripartite agreements in 1993 and 2003 were signed leading to creations of Bodoland Autonomous Council and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) under the Sixth Schedule areas in Assam.
The ABSU and its associated organisations, as well as various factions of the NDFB, continued with the demand for separate statehood. A compensation of Rs 5 lakh will be provided to those who were killed during the Bodoland movement.
“Negotiations were held with Bodo organisations for a comprehensive and final solution to their demands while keeping intact the territorial integrity of Assam,” NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
As per the MoS, the government to promote and protect social, cultural, linguistic and ethnic identities of Bodos; to provide legislative safeguards for land rights of tribals; to ensure accelerated developments of tribals and to rehabilitate members of NDFB factions.
The Assam government will notify Bodo language as the associate official language in the state and will set up a separate directorate for Bodo medium schools.
Alteration of area of BTAD
A Commission will be appointed under Paragraph 14 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution which would examine and recommend the inclusion of villages to Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) and having majority tribal population, as demanded by Bodo organisations.
The Commission will also examine and recommend the exclusion of villages currently under BTAD which are contiguous to non-Sixth Schedule areas and have majority non-tribal population.
The Commission will also examine and recommend an increase in constituencies of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) up to a maximum of 60 seats after alteration in the area, without adversely affecting the existing percentage of reservation for tribals.
The Commission will include representatives of the Assam government as well as stakeholders including ABSU and BTC as its members. It will submit its recommendation within six months from the date of notification.
As per the MoS, the existing BTAD shall be renamed as Bodoland Territorial Region. The Assam government may consider reorganising the districts, consequent to alteration of the area of BTAD on administrative consideration.
Powers and functions of BTC
The process of BTC to have more legislative, executive, administrative and financial powers in respect of additional subjects.
Principal Secretary, BTC will have monitoring powers of the Registration Department within BTAD area. Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police of the districts within BTAD will be posted in consultation with Cheif Executive Member (CEM) of BTC.
Deputy Commissioners in BTAD will report to CEM of BTC through Chief Executive Officer in respect to all developmental activities in their region with regard to the responsibilities assigned to them by BTC.
A separate DIG post will also be created for BTAD region.
Bodos outside BTAD
A Bodo Kachari Welfare Council will be formed to look after the concerns of Bodos’ living outside BTAD. The Council would focus on the development of Bodo villages outside BTAD.
An advisory committee comprising representatives of Assam government, BTC and Bodo-Kachari Welfare Council shall be set up to identify specific needs of the Bodo villages outside BTAD and advise the Assam government.
Education in BTAD
The Assam government will initiate measures to provincialise schools and colleges established in BTAD and Bodo medium schools outside BTAD, as per need and requirement.
The Assam government will also take measures to appoint lectures in Bodo departments in colleges outside BTAD as a special consideration.
A separate Directorate for Bodo medium schools will be set in Assam. A cultural Complex-cum-Centre for Excellence in the name of Bodofa Upendranath Brahma will be the establishment at Thulungapuri in Kokrajhar.
The Centre will study and recommend measures for protection and promotion of language, culture for protection and promotion of language, culture, identity and so on of Bodos residing in Assam as well as other states of the country.
The Assam government may consider enacting special legislation to provide adequate safeguards to land rights of STs living outside tribal belts and Blacks in areas outside BTAD.
Measures taken by Assam government
The Assam government will create a separate department to deal with matters relating to Councils under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution including BTC.
A separate post of Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police in BTAD in addition to the existing post of IG will be created.
An Administrative Staff College will be established under BTC administration.
Settlement with NDFB factions
Criminal cases registered against members of NDFB factions for non-heinous crimes hall be withdrawn by the government. Criminal cases registered in connection with heinous crimes shall be reviewed case by case according to the existing policy on the subject.
The Central and State governments will take necessary measures to rehabilitate the cades in consultation with NDFB factions.
Such measures may inter alia include (i) lump sum payment of ex-gratia, (ii) funding economic activities through existing government schemes relating to fisheries, piggery, organic farming, poultry farming etc, (iii) trade/vocation training based on locally available resources, and (iv) recruitment inappropriate government jobs as per eligibility.
Special Development Package
The Assam government may earmark a sum of Rs 250 crore per annum for a period of three years for the development of the area under BTC.
The Government of India may contribute an additional amount of Rs 250 crore per annum for the same period.
Bodo youth will be considered for recruitment in the Army, Paramilitary forces and police to increase their representation in the forces. Pre-recruitment training rallies will be organised by the agencies to facilitate the process.
A Joint Monitoring Committee shall be constituted with representatives from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Assam government, BTC and Bodo organisations to monitor implementation of the MoS.
Photo credit: @AmitShah and @sarbanandsonwal