Explosion of Public Anger
IT was a powerful manifestation of growing anger of the Hill peoples of Assam against unilateral imposition of Clause-8 of BLT Accord. The BJP-led Union Govt and the Govt of Assam have recently signed a Memorandum of Settlement with Bodoland Liberation Tigers (BLT), a militant outfit, and agreed (under the Clause 8 of the BLT Accord) to confer Hill Tribal status to the Bodos living in Karbi Anglong (See the June 2003 issue of Liberation, pages 10-11). The overwhelming majority of Karbi People sense that this will jeopardize the prospects of original ST(H) populations in terms of reservation benefits. Most of the Bodos living in Karbi Anglong have migrated to Karbi Anglong recently and are no different from mainstream Plains Bodos.
The Cong(I) and the renegades of ASDC, who have allied with BJP, have been hobnobbing with BLT and had, overtly or covertly, agreed to support ST(H) demand of the Bodos. They had signed a written agreement with BLT-backed organisations supporting this demand just on the eve of last Assembly Elections to ensure Bodo votes, particularly in Diphu and Howraghat MLA segments. The Congress(I), on the other hand, could muster a majority in the present Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council only with the support of the BLT-backed councillor and the Council is in fact being ruled by a Congress-BLT coalition. In the face of spontaneous mass anger against the provision of Clause-8, however, both Congress (I) and the renegades of ASDC are now trying to cover their treachery by doublespeak. Although they have issued statements opposing the said clause, in real life they have not denounced their earlier written agreements with the Bodos. The Cong(I)-led KAAC has not yet categorically rejected ST(H) demand of the Bodos to ensure continuation of the ruling Cong-BLT coalition. Surprisingly, both these parties have tried to blame CPI(ML) for the present crisis by cleverly misinterpreting a resolution adopted by Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) in 1991, when Dr. Jayanta Rongpi was the Chief Executive Member (CEM). This resolution, they allege, had granted no objection certificate to the Bodos for getting ST(H) status, though the fact is that this resolution demanded creation of an Autonomous State first, and then, within the framework of that Autonomous State, promised to accommodate various demands of other communities.
CPI(ML) launched a massive propaganda campaign to counter this mischievous and desperate misinformation drive. Mass agitational programmes against Clause-8 were taken by our students and youth organizations along with effective interventions made by our MP in the Lok Sabha on the issue. All this has beaten back the Cong(I) and the renegades of ASDC. People saw through their doublespeak and opportunism. Most of ASDC rank and file have become disillusioned with the renegades. The renegade leadership is desperately trying to keep its flock together by organizing ‘workshops’, which failed to evoke response in majority of places.
The Cong(I) is now trying to hoodwink the people by playing a hide and seek game in passing an official resolution to oppose ST(H) demand of BLT. To expose and oppose the doublespeak of Cong(I), the KSA (Karbi Students’ Association) organized the Council gherao on 29 May, 2003. Peoples from various areas of the district gathered at the joint office of ASDC(P) and CPI(ML) Diphu District Committee from where the procession to gherao Council Office was to start. However, the police had already cordoned off the office campus and the protesters had to break the police cordon first. Moreover, people coming from different areas had gathered at different places of Diphu from the previous night and from different routes they started reaching the council office. This took the police by surprise and they resorted to massive lathicharge, tear gas and blank fire, in which 75 persons including ex-CEM Com. Mojari Hanse were injured. Despite this barbaric attack not a single demonstrator left the ground and ultimately the police had to retreat. People were determined to break the police cordon and gherao the Council and they succeeded in their programme. A memorandum was handed over to the CEM of the KAAC demanding to pass a resolution regarding the ST(H) on the basis of the Council resolution adopted on 6 November 1991 (No. KACL / XVII / 162). They also demanded to the Government of Assam not to implement Clause-8 of the BLT accord until and unless implementation of 244(A) of the Indian Constitution, and to collect opinion from the KAAC and N. C. Hills Autonomous Council on the question of Clause-8 of the BLT accord.
A protest meeting was held against barbaric attack of the police where leaders of KSA, CPI(ML), KNCA and ASDC(P) including Comrades Chandra Kanta Terang, Hemsing Tisso, Bidya Teron, Selawar Bey, Robi Kr. Phangcho, Amlong Ingti, Francis Teron, Rajendra Rongpi and Pratima Inghipi condemned the attack of the ruling Cong(I) on democratic movement and called upon the people to intensify movement against Cong(I) misrule in the district.
— Selawar Bey