Migrant settlers were the intended targets.
Army sources say the death count could be five times the officially acknowledged number of 71.
Starting with the demand for Udayachal in the early 1950s to violent assertions for an independent state after 1987, the Bodo people have always aspired for more freedom. But they are keenly aware that they lack the numbers, with just over 1 million, or a third of the BTAD’s 3.1 million population. Nani Gopal Mahanta, 43, a former Berkeley scholar and associate professor of political science at Gauhati University, traces the genesis of the current violence to the failed Bodoland Accord of 1993 when the then junior minister for home affairs, Rajesh Pilot, declared that statehood would remain an impossible dream since Bodos were a minority in their own land. “The message percolated through the collective Bodo psyche and there has since been a consistent bid to drive away all nonBodo communities,” he says.
Udayon Misra, 67, an eminent social scientist with the Guwahati- based Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change & Development, says the conflict stems from the Bodos trying to regain control of lands they have been progressively alienated from. Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, he says, become the first targets as the most obvious outsiders. Mahanta adds that the ongoing conflict is “a systematic and coordinated bid to force the creation of a homogenous Bodo territory by driving out migrants”.
WOMEN AND CHILDREN ATARELIEF CAMP IN BIJNI, CHIRANG DISTRICT