“How is a Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train joining India!”
Demanded to know Khargo Bahadur Setry, Bodo leader from Assam. He added, “If you had connected Delhi to Tripura, then yes, it would be connecting India, but how is this short stretch representing India?”
(Khargo Bahadur Setry)
It is this unequal representation that the Bodo people of Assam are chafing under. About two thousand of them descended on Delhi on November 14 to demand for a separate Bodoland state. According to this group, cultures of only a few states enjoy national recognition and are allowed to showcase their heritage at a national level, while others are ignored, leaving their identities in darkness. Rights and representation are given to communities with their own states, so the Bodos - the largest minority group in the north-east – have been demanding their own state for a long time.
They claim that despite about 1600 languages existing in the country, only 29 are listed as official languages, which omits their own distinctive, Tibeto-Burmese Bodo language. This again shows that the Government is not really interested in protecting the language, tradition and culture of its native people.
“We are not asking for anything special,” says Setry, “It is our constitutional right, other states have been made, so why not ours?”
Avers Sri Suairam Narzari, a school teacher from Tezpur, “I think with our own people ruling and governing, our needs, like electricity, land and panchayati raj will also be facilitated.”
(Sri Suairam Narzari)
Many of them had protested in Delhi by holding a mass hunger strike in March, 2017, as well. At the time the government had promised to resolve their problems. “But Delhi is a bit hard of hearing,” thunders on Setry, “They don’t hear our voices from Assam so we have to come here,” but he adds a grim warning, “Don’t force us into creating an atmosphere back home where you will have to come running.”
Bodo representatives had met with the controversial Simon Commission back in 1929 in Shillong, demanding for Bodos to be listed as a separate category in the Census Report, also suggesting a distinct Bodo Sepoys Regiment like the Gorkhas. As a result, the Commission had allowed for a seat to be reserved of Goalpara district for the Plain Tribals for the 1936 election. The Bodos, consequently had thrown their lot in with the Indian National Congress and joined the fight for Independence.
However, post-Independence, the Bodos have been feeling increasingly marginalised. They feel that issues like illegal immigration, primarily from Bangladesh, and encroachment of their lands are being ineffectively addressed. They are being forced to assimilate, suffering a loss of their own language and culture.
Said Dipjyoti Khachaty, another Bodo representative, “Dear Prime Minister, you have been sharing your ‘Mann ki Baat’ with the entire country, it is time that you too started listening to our mann ki baat too!”
“According to the Nepali Ramayana our people had gone right up to Narada to appeal for our favour with the gods, so please do listen to us. Like a bundle of wood that you cannot crack, we will also continue to stand together for our demands. Don’t ignore us,” urged Setry