Assam constitutes panel to include Bodo villages in BTR, exclude non-Bodo settlements from region


GUWAHATI: The Assam government has constituted a four-member committee to include Bodo-majority villages in the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) and exclude non-Bodo settlements from it, as per the accord signed on January 27, senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Friday.

The panel, headed by former chief secretary P P Verma, will take a decision after reviewing applications from villages bordering the four BTR districts for inclusion of settlements with majority Bodo population in the region and exclusion of those with majority non-Bodo population from it, the minister told reporters.

“It will also advise the government on increasing the existing 40 seats in the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) to 60, besides reorganising the constituencies,” he said.

Apart from Verma, BTAD administrator Rajesh Prasad, Jayanta Basumatary of the All Bodo Students” Union (ABSU) and Dalim Gayan, representing the non-Bodos, are members of the committee, the minister said.

Governor Jagadish Mukhi had earlier given approval for constituting the committee and renaming BTAD as BTR, comprising Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri districts, Sarma said.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Union Home Minister Amit Shah recently held discussions on the speedy implementation of the Bodo Accord and steps are being taken to ensure that all the clauses are implemented in a time-bound manner, he said.

The state government will initiate steps next month to implement Bodo as the associate official language of Assam and create the Bodo-Kachari Welfare Territorial Council for Bodos living outside the BTR, the minister said.

The Assam government and the Centre has also held discussions on the implementation of other clauses of the Bodo Accord and those will be announced as and when the decisions are finalised, he said.

On elections to the BTC, which had to be deferred due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Sarma said the Health Department has made it clear that it is not safe to conduct the polls till November 30.

The chief minister will soon call an all-party meeting to review the situation, he said.

“We are following the Bihar elections and a decision will be taken based on the Bihar experience,” the minister said.

Bodoland Peoples” Front (BPF) leader and former BTC chief Hagrama Mohilary said that renaming the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) as Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) was “totally unconstitutional”.

The BPF also took out a rally in Kokrajhar, demanding that the BTC election be held before October 27.

“COVID-19 pandemic cannot be a valid ground for deferring or postponing the BTC election,” Mohilary said.

Due to no existence of elected representatives, the people of the BTR are suffering and the developmental works of the region have been blocked, he alleged.

However, former ABSU president Promode Boro, also a signatory of the accord, thanked the government for taking pro-active steps for the implementation of some of the clauses and hoped that the rest would be implemented soon.

The renaming of BTAD to BTR, according to clause 3.3, is of great significance and honour for the Bodoland movement groups who had signed the accord, ABSU general secretary Lawrence Islary said.

The elections to the 40-member BTC, earlier scheduled to be held on April 4, was kept in abeyance due to the COVID- 19 outbreak and the council is currently administered under the supervision of the governor, after its term ended on April 27.

The elections to the council were being held after a fresh Bodo Accord was signed in New Delhi on January 27 by Shah, Sonowal, Mohilary and leaders of ABSU and all the four factions of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB). (PTI)