Friday, March 15, 2013

Learnings

Toady was a slow day, the kind lazy summer are made of. I read more about the communities I am attempting to understand. What follows is a Bodo Ethnic Conflicts 101.

Ethnicity
Assam is home to multiple ethnic groups - Bodos, Rabhas, Garos, Dimasa, etc. Each possess a particular region and have an individual appearance, religion, and language. These ethnic 'nations' have at times come into conflict with the State's definition of a political nation. This conflict has been taking place in Assam since the 1980s, and the Bodos are usually in the center of these ethnic disputes. Figures of displacement due to the numerous ethnic conflicts range from 1.7 to 2.3 lakhs. These, of course, are conservative estimates that have increased exponentially since the recent clashes in July 2012. The displaced include 35,000 Bodos, 80,000 Santhals, 3,500-6,000 Bengalis, and some Nepalis.

Bodos
The Bodo movement dates back to the Simon Commission in 1929 when the demand for a separate electorate for Bodos was articulated. In 1967, the Plains Tribal Council of Assam was formed, its primary political agenda being the formation of a Bodo state called Udayachal. In a few decades the party lost the support of the people, at which time the All Bodo Students' Union provided a much needed impetus to the movement. Bodofa Upendra Nath Brahma was the 8th president of the ABSU. With his arrival, the ABSU transformed into a political movement that has been spearheading a nonviolent struggle for a Bodo nation. One of the ABSU's most significant victors thus far has been the formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council in 2003. The BTC comprises of an area called the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District which comprises of four districts, including Kokrajhar.

Bodo-Santhal Conflict
The two communities had lived in relative harmony for a large part of history. In 1996, three dead bodies of Bodo girls were found in the Santhal-majority area of Satyapur. It was then that relations between Bodos and Santhals turned into one of suspicion. Political parties such as the CPI (ML) (Nandi group) further pushed the Santhals to form an extremist group of their own. What followed was a pogrom of killing in which more than 150 people died. Thirty-three relief camps were set up from 1996-1998 in which some 5.5 lakh people resided. According to the District Relief Camp Report of 2003, 20% of those affected were from the Boro community and the remainder were Santhals.

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