Bodoland. The word itself is an inseparable element of the Bodos and the tribal people of the proposed area which lies between the river Sankosh in the west and Sadiya in the east.
The dream of the Bodo youth at large is to make it a reality against all odds. Therefore, they are sacrificing their valuable time, careers and self-development opportunities to fight for what they believe is their right. Though the dream also pertains to the community at large, the movement is being led by the Bodo youth who have the potential to fight and continue the revolution at the cost of their blood, until their final breath.
There are many reasons as to why the Bodo youth is going forward with this bold and fearless decision. Its not just a revolution for separation. The revolution is for self-identity and self-rule; it is the fight of the oppressed, suppressed and the discriminated people. It is a democratic, non-violent war against the establishment over unheard issues, genuine political rights and the struggle to survive as humans with basic rights. Their love for the culture, tradition and language further motivates them.
Achieving the long-standing demand for statehood has been a far cry due to the lackadaisical attitude of the government in power, irrespective of the political parties in question. In the Indian democracy, things move like a tortoise when the issues are not related to political gains. But still, the movement of the Bodos is being continued by the youth – with patience, tolerance and faith in democracy. But the million-dollar question is about how long such behaviour can be tolerated. What is the maximum limit?
With a pace as slow as this, how can the youth stay calm? The world is moving at a breakneck speed – and the government, the slowest they can. If the sky is the limit, then how can the youth compete with the rest of the world, when things are yet to start? How can the youth contribute towards the nation when their internal problems are still not addressed? Such delaying tactics will fail the largest democracy one day, if matters are not handled sensitively.
The outcry of the Gorkhas and their demand for Gorkhaland, as seen on the streets of Darjeeling and the national capital, is a signal to the establishment regarding how the common citizens can act and react when their genuine demands are not fulfilled. The message sent by the Gorkhas is clear, “You love our tea and toy train, we serve the nation as soldiers. But when we demand for our rights, you term us as terrorists.”
The government talks about technical difficulties in creating new states, but doesn’t clarify its stand, be it on the Gorkhaland, Bodoland, Vidharbha, Tipraland movements or on many more such issues . The government should either grant it or reject it – but why should they keep people waiting for an eternity?
Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of India are also not clear about the eligibility of a particular territory to be a state. The population pattern, demography, etc. are challenged by the anti-Bodoland factions, and they claim to be the majority in the proposed Bodoland. But they never talk about the fact that Bodos are the single largest community in the Northeast, and that the tribal people are the majority in the proposed Bodoland.
They will never speak about the population pattern of the Bodos and the tribal people, whenever the demand of the tribal state is being made. They will never raise their voices for the rights of the tribal people – be it the eviction of illegal settlers from tribal belts and blocks, the development of tribal languages and cultures or on the irrelevant debates on the news shows.
Assam is a multilingual state, and each language has a right to exist – and to protect and promote these, the government has to prepare the road-map. But the question still exists – is there any institution in the capital of Assam, or in any part of Assam, which has been entrusted with the task to promote the indigenous languages?
The answer is negative. The rights of the indigenous people are always neglected and alienated under the false presumption of the ‘greater Assamese society’. The Bodos were never a part of the ‘greater Assamese society’ because they always considered themselves as distinct – having a totally different culture, tradition and language than the mainstream Assamese.
Bodos, historically, have been the victims of deprivation and discrimination. They have faced the destruction of their culture, language and various traditional practices by the sections which were the propounders of aggressive Assamese nationalism. Why should the Bodos be Assamese against their will? Why were they (and still are) forced to learn the ‘artificial’ Assamese language when the majority of them are not well versed in it till date?
Isn’t this injustice done towards the Bodos? In a multilingual state like Assam, how is it justified to compel the tribal populations to learn one particular language that is alien to them by making it the official language? For a language to be an official state language, it needs to be spoken by 70% of the people. But the harsh reality is that the political scenario in Assam is controlled by a handful of elites who buy their votes and support under the false banner of being Assamese.
The people of the Barak Valley speak Bengali; the tribal people of the north bank speak different languages; the tribal people of upper-Assam, though assimilated, have a different language. Do I now need to spell out where exactly we are going wrong?
Clauses 6 and 10 of the Assam Accord didn’t clearly define whether the tribal people came under its umbrella. Clause 6 talks about the constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards of the Assamese people to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social and linguistic identities. However, with a ‘one language, one culture’ policy, how is it possible to even think of other linguistic groups and their promotion or development?
These things are unclear, and that is why the Bodos and the tribal people fear to be Assamese. If Clause 6 was really meant for the inclusion of all (the indigenous tribal populations and their rights), then why have mainstream groups and the government not taken even a single step towards addressing the linguistic problems of the Mishing, Tiwas, Rabhas, Deoris, Bodos, Sonowals and Thengals?
The Tiwas, Rabhas and the others are demanding a sixth schedule, but no voice or support for this is seen. Recently, the Asom Sahitya Sabha said that anyone who has resided in Assam for a period and has spoken Assamese is an Assamese person. The tribal communities can’t accept such weird definitions.
When a Bodo wants to enjoy the rights as a citizen of Assam, they are discriminated against – but when the Bodos demand for their rights to be fulfilled, then they are termed as Assamese and said to have equal rights and opportunities in the eyes of the majority. The policy of depriving the rights of Bodos by bringing them under the banner of the concept of the ‘greater Assamese’ is not acceptable.
If Assamese is not a “jaati” (as is believed by the propounders), then why are we concerned about its very existence? There are larger issues to be dealt with. If the Asom Sahitya Sabha represents all the communities of Assam, then what is their contribution towards the tribal populations and their linguistic developments? Just singing the anthem of unity and showcasing their dance on a public platform is not the right way of promotion, for the development of all the communities.
Somewhere, somehow, at a period of time, people sacrificed themselves for your luxuries and privileges. The very fact of being identified and honoured as a Bodo is the result of the sacrifices of many revolutionaries who have stood up in difficult times, resisted and maintained their unique identity at the cost of valuable lives.
The subsidised education you enjoy due to your ST certificate or the reservation in jobs and employment opportunities can be credited in the name of the many unsung revolutionaries of our communities, who sacrificed their valuable time for the sake of your enjoyment. The safe and peaceful environment of your locality is the contribution of many social workers who worked untiringly and selflessly.
Therefore, it’s the duty of the younger generations to pay back to their families and previous generations in their best capacity. A revolution is not static, even though its results may be. The society may not impact you directly, but when you analyse the condition in greater depth, inter-links are found. That is why humans felt the need for a society and formed it for their self-efficacy.
The Bodos are such a beautiful community, with their culture, tradition and language being distinct and unique. The Bodos have a potential to excel in the field of sports, dance, music, and many other fields, but are left behind due to poverty, lack of quality education, deprivation, discrimination and a lack of infrastructure. Every Bodo youth has to contribute to the best interests of the community, for the upliftment of the masses who are still deprived, oppressed, suppressed, exploited and discriminated by the government in power.
It’s high time for the educated and woke Bodo youth to carry the load of social engineering and take the community to a whole new level, from where the concept of Bodofa Upendranath Brahma’s “Geremsa Mahari” or the master race can be a reality.
JWI BORO HARINI. BOROSA DERHASAR.