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24th February – Third Bodo Accords

On January 27, 2020, the central government announced that it has signed a “historic” accord with four factions of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) – NDFB-Progressive (NDFB-P), NDFB-Ranjan Daimary (NDFB-RD), NDFB-Dhirendra Boro (NDFB-DB) and NDFB-Saoraigwra (NDFB-S, formerly NDFB-Songbijit).

The accord reportedly included a number of political and economic measures designed to strengthen the autonomy of the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD), now renamed as Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR), as well as mechanisms to rehabilitate the members of each armed group into everyday life.

Background –

  • The NDFB-S emerged from a fractious Bodo armed movement that had undergone numerous splits since the first militant groups emerged to campaign for the sovereignty or autonomy of the Bodo-inhabited areas of Western Assam in the mid-1980s.
  • Formed initially as the Bodo Security Force (BdSF) on October 3, 1986, the group rebranded itself as NDFB in April 1993.
  • The rebranding marked its rejection of the 1993 Bodo Accord, which had led to the creation of a territorially-delineated Bodo Autonomous Council that granted constitutional privileges to villages containing Bodo population of 50 per cent or more.
  • The accord was followed by an outburst of ethnic violence against perceived ‘outsiders’ as militant groups such as the BdSF sought to redress the ethnic balance in favour of the ethnic Bodos.
  • The NDFB signed a ceasefire in 2005, but an informal split took place, with senior leader Ranjan Daimary remaining in Bangladesh. Daimary’s faction orchestrated a series of bomb blasts in Assam in October 2008 that left 88 people dead.

How did they come to negotiating table?

  • In December 2014, the Songbijit faction carried out a spate of ethnic killings in Sonitpur and other districts. In response to this violence, a large-scale counterinsurgency operation, codenamed ‘Operation All Out’, was launched in December 2014. Sustained military operations firmly placed the group on the defensive almost immediately.
  • In January and December 2016, the government twice rejected ceasefire overtures from the NDFB-S. This illustrates that rather than seeking accommodation at the first opportunity, the government patiently sought to further leverage its position and negotiate on its own terms.

Recent role of Myanmar –

During the first half of 2019 as Tatmadaw (Myanmar armed forces) launched a series of operation against camps belonging to the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang/Yung Aung (NSCN-K/YA), which hosted NDFB-S militants.

What were the demands?

  • The NDFB-P had long demanded the creation of a separate Bodoland state within the Indian Union, a demand that New Delhi was highly unlikely to grant. As the NDFB factions are comparatively weaker, the NDFB-P’s campaign constituted part of a negotiating strategy to secure concessions below the level of outright statehood.
  • The rapid pace of negotiations leading to the peace accord, since the integration of NDFB-S into the peace process, was reflective of the declining bargaining clout of the group since the start of Operation All Out.

Analysing the accord –

  • Following a pattern consistent with the previous Bodo accords, the 2020 accord grants further political and economic privileges to the BTAD.
  • The accord reportedly involves a three-year economic development package of Rs. 1500 crores, an increase in seats from 40 to 60 on the Bodo Territorial Council (BTC), and as yet unspecified guarantees that more powers would be granted to the BTC.
  • Regarding the territorial scope of the BTR, the accord stipulates that a commission will be constituted to explore the possibility of extending the territorial extent of the BTC to villages with more than 50 per cent Bodo population, whilst excluding those with less than 50 per cent Bodo population.
  • The accord upgrades the status of the Bodo language to that of an official associate language, and reportedly further explores the possibility of addressing the issue of Bodos living outside the BTAD area.

Concerns –

The new accord is already facing some criticism –

  • On January 27, Kokrajhar’s only non-Bodo Member of Parliament, Naba Kumar Saraniya (Independent), warned that the latest accord has repeated the mistakes of 2003 by excluding the non-Bodos while granting amnesty to the militants implicated in ethnic violence against them.
  • A similar stipulation leading to the inclusion of villages with over 50 per cent Bodo population was contained in the 1993 Bodo Accord. This had provoked ethnic violence in villages with less than 50 per cent Bodo population as recalcitrant groups (the NDFB and the Bodo Liberation Tiger Force) sought to shift the ethnic balance, sparking counter-mobilisations from the non-Bodo communities leading to further violence.

SourceMPIDSA

QUESTIONThe Third Bodo Accords are an embarkment of offensive-defence strategy with a combination of neighbourhood first diplomacy. Discuss how these accords present a fine picture to secure a lasting peace with insurgents group in India.

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