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Development is 1st and last priority — PM at Bodo accord celebration

By IANS Updated: Feb 08, 2020 12:00 am

Urges maoists, J&K, NE militants to join mainstream

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public rally during an event to celebrate the signing of the Bodo agreement, in Kokrajhar on Friday. (PTI)

Kokrajhar (Assam), Feb. 7 (IANS): Saying that development was the first and last priority after the signing of the historic Bodo accord, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asked the people of Assam to have faith in him and promised to do everything possible to fulfil their hopes, aspirations and expectations.

The Prime Minister, who was addressing a celebration ceremony of the recently-signed third Bodo peace accord, said the previous two agreements did not lead to lasting peace.

“Lasting peace was not established after the previous accords in 1993 and 2003. Now the Centre, state and all Bodo groups have committed to this historic accord. So now, development is our first and last priority,” Modi said while addressing the mammoth rally at Jangkritai Fwtar, about 216 km from Guwahati.

Modi told the euphoric crowd that he was their man.

“Friends, have faith in me. I am your man. I won’t be found wanting in whatever I can do to relieve your pain and suffering, and for fulfilling your hopes and aspirations, expectations and for a bright future of your children,” he said.

Modi’s Indian Air Force chopper arrived at a makeshift helipad here from Guwahati at around 12.45 p.m.

He was welcomed by hundreds of Bodo girls who performed the traditional ‘Bagurumba’ dance.

The state government earlier said it was expecting around four to five lakh people from the four Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) – Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Chirang and Baksa – and other regions.

Kokrajhar had been decked up ahead of Modi’s trip with banners, festoons and big hoardings seemingly omnipresent to “thank” him for the peace accord.

On Thursday night, 70,000 earthen lamps were lit to enhance the celebratory mood. The Prime Minister shared the visual on his Instagram handle.

On January 27, the Centre and the Assam government inked a peace agreement with representatives of Bodo organisations, attempting to put an end to the decades-old Bodo insurgency based on the demand for carving out a separate state.

The tripartite agreement announced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah provides for the economic and political development of Bodos without affecting the territorial integrity of Assam.

The accord is the third Bodo peace agreement to be signed since 1993. The demand for a separate Bodoland is almost five decades old.

As part of the accord, altogether 1,615 cadres of the three factions of separatist organisation National Democratic Front of Bodoland laid down their arms before Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal last week. They deposited 178 arms and 4,893 pieces of ammunition.

Appealing to militants in the North-East, Jammu and Kashmir and Maoists to leave arms and join the national mainstream, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said they can get nothing by following the path of violence.

“I tell the Naxalites, those in the North-East and Kashmir, who still have faith in bombs, guns and pistols, to learn from the Bodo youths, take inspiration from them and come to the mainstream. Live your life, celebrate life,” Modi said, addressing a huge gathering here in celebration of the third Bodo peace accord inked late last month.

Welcoming the Bodo accord, the prime minister said he was aware that people of diverse groups live in Assam with their distinctive culture, language, dress and food habits.

“I am fully aware of your aspirations, pains and sorrows. The way Bodos have come together, I am confident that the misgivings of other communities will end fast. Have faith in your friend (Modi).”

In an indirect appeal to the banned United Liberation Front of Assam and its fugitive chief Paresh Barua, Modi said: “I appeal to those still nurturing some inimical thoughts regarding the country to shun such thoughts and come to the mainstream of development an take part in ‘sab ke sath, sab ke vikas’ (development for all).

“Violence doesn’t lead you to any goals, nor will it get you anything in future,” he said.

Previous govts kept NE problems hanging for decades

Slamming previous governments at the Centre for keeping issues and problems unresolved for decades in various areas, including northeastern states for the sake of votes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said such an approach led to the alienation of a section of people from the region who had started losing faith in the Indian Constitution and democracy.

“There are so many challenges before the nation which were ignored due to political and social considerations. These challenges have fanned violence, instability, mistrust in various regions of India. This was continuing in the country for decades,” Modi said addressing a huge crowd at the third Bodo peace accord celebrations here, about 216 km from Guwahati.

Modi said before his BJP-led NDA government came to power in 2014, the North-East was regarded as a region which could not be “touched upon” and there was no serious effort to change the culture of obstructions, movements, blockades and violence.

“This approach had alienated some of our brothers and sisters from the North-East so much that they had started losing their faith in the Constitution and democracy,” Modi said during the celebratory rally at Jangkritai Fwta.

The Prime Minister said as a result over the past few decades, thousands of people and security personnel were killed, lakhs lost their homes and millions could never see development during their lifetime.

“The previous governments were also aware of these realities, they used to admit these realities. But they never tried hard to bring about a change in the situation,” he said.

The Prime Minister said his government adopted a new approach to the sensitive issues of the North-East by gauging the aspirations and emotional context of various states of the region.

“We established channels of communication with them by thinking of them as one of our own and also made them feel that way. This has helped reduce extremism in the North-East.

He said whereas, in earlier years, there were about 1,000 killings in the North-East due to extremism, the situation is “almost peaceful” now.

He said while the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was in force in most of the N-E states earlier, now the law was not there in most regions of Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh.

He said while businessmen weren’t willing to invest in the region before 2014, the situation has changed now.

“There was a fight for a homeland for a long time in the North-East. Today, they have accepted India as their homeland and strengthened the idea of one India, best India.”

“People from other regions of India were afraid of coming to the North-East at one time, but now they think of the region as their next tourist destination”.He said the change came about as his government now considers the NE states as growth-engines for development, whereas in the past they were regarded as recipients.

“Earlier, this region was thought to be far from Delhi. Today, Delhi is very close to you and hears you with care. I have prepared a roster for central ministers. We’ve ensured that once every 10-15 days, a central Minister visits the North-East, spends the night there, talks to people and solves their problems.

“Our ministers have spent a great deal of time here and solved a lot of problems. My government is taking direct feedback from you constantly and preparing the Central government’s policies based on them.”

He said while the 14th Finance Commission has given the states from the region Rs 3 lakh crore, its predecessor handed over only Rs 90,000 crore.

On the development front, 3000 km of roads have been built, new national highways approved and the entire railway network converted to broad gauge in the region.

Due to the large-scale development work, separatism in the region has been transformed into a sense of belonging.

BTC urges PM to withdraw heinous cases against NDFB leaders

Kokrajhar(Assam), Feb. 7 (PTI): Bodoland Territorial Council chief Hagrama Mohilary on Friday requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure that all criminal cases against the cadres of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), including for heinous acts, are withdrawn.

Mohilary, who was himself a militant till 2003, made the request at an official function held here to celebrate the signing of the Bodo accord.

Modi, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Governor Jagdish Mukhi were present at the programme.

“For the NDFB, all cases should be withdrawn. Whether they are heinous or non-heinous,” Mohilary said addressing the mammoth gathering in which surrendered leaders of different factions of NDFB were present.

Modi in his address did not mention anything about the withdrawal of the cases.

According to the peace accord, criminal cases against the members of NDFB for non-heinous crimes will be withdrawn by the Assam government as per the law.

Criminal cases registered in connection with heinous crimes will be reviewed case by case according to the existing policy on the subject, the agreement said.

Citing his own past as an example, Mohilary said that all cases against members of the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) were withdrawn after the outfit entered into an agreement with the government in 2003, leading to the creation of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).

The BLT members had formed the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF), which is in power in BTC and is also an alliance partner of the ruling BJP in the state government.

All the factions of the NDFB along with All Bodo Students Union and United Bodo People’s Organisation had signed the accord with the government on January 27, 2020 which provided political and economic bonanza to the Bodoland region sans a separate state or union territory.

Following this, a total 1,615 cadres from all the factions of NDFB laid down their arms on January 30 and deposited their arms and ammunition.

NDFB’s Ranjan Daimary faction had carried out serial bomb blasts across Assam on October 30, 2008 that claimed 88 lives and left more than 500 injured.

Daimary, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the blasts, was released on interim bail on January 25 to participate in the Bodo peace talks with the Centre.

The NDFB(S), another dreaded faction, had killed 43 people, mostly from the minority community, in Baksa and Kokrajhar districts in May 2014.

In more attacks, the outfit killed at least 81 people, including 76 Adivasis, in Sonitpur, Kokrajhar, Baksa and Chirang districts in December that year.

During the signing of the agreement, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said over 4,000 lives were lost in the region due to insurgency by the Bodos which had continued for several decades.

Speaking at the function Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma invited ULFA(I) militants to peace talks by abjuring violence for permanent peace in the state.

By IANS Updated: Feb 08, 2020 12:00:42 am