There appears to be some truth in the assertion that the “Bodo tangle” continues even after their political and economic aspirations have been met. Since 2005 the Bodos have been enjoying autonomy under the Sixth Schedule, which is exclusively for hill tribes but was amended to accommodate the Bodos, who are a plains tribe. The person who clinched this is Hagrama Mohilary, who commanded the militant group, Bodo Liberation Tigers. The then BJP Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani persuaded him to lay down arms (apparently to shore up the party’s image in the region as a peace-maker) and join the mainstream. At the time of taking over the leadership of the autonomous council, Mohilary made it clear that his main objective was to secure a separate state. Little wonder, because finance for development of autonomous councils is routed through Dispur.
Reports speak of 2,000 Bodos in Kokrajhar observing a hunger strike to demand a separate state. They have also threatened to blockade vital rail and road links that pass through their area and which serve the region’s hill states. The separate state demand, however, is not new. The now-defunct Plains Tribal Council first espoused the cause of a separate state of Udaychal in the 1960s for plains tribes.
Later the All Bodo Students’ Union assumed leadership. In 2003, it signed an accord with then chief minister of Assam, Hiteswar Saikia, but it floundered within a few years over the issue of demarcation of borders. The trouble with the Bodos is that there are too many organisations and they are yet to realise that unless they sink their differences and make common cause, they cannot go ahead with any peace process.