10-hour Bodo rail blockade in Assam hits train services

Guwahati, Oct 24 (IANS) Thousands of members of the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) and other Bodo groups went on a 10-hour rail blockade in Bodo districts of Assam on Monday, badly hitting train services in the state.

The blockade, to press for reviving the demand for a separate Bodoland, began at 5 a.m. It hit train traffic as most trains entering and exiting the Northeast have to pass through Bodo-dominated districts of Assam.

According to Railways officials, more than 22 trains, including Rajdhani express connecting Northeast to Delhi, were hit. Many local trains had to be halted till the agitation got over around 3 p.m.

The rail blockade hit two places – Chirang and Udalguri districts – the most.

Bodoland activists declared the rail blockade last week accusing the BJP of backing out of its poll-time assurance to discuss the issue of Bodoland if it comes to power.

Bodo community is the biggest tribe of Assam and they have been demanding a separate state for the last five decades.

Pramod Bodo, President of All Bodo Students Union, in a message on Monday appealed to Government of India to “come forward with a pragmatic policy decision” on Bodoland and said that almost half a century had elapsed in agitations for statehood, claiming 5,000 lives. He said the movement will continue till the Centre concedes their demand.

Assam Additional Director General of Police and in charge of Bodo areas L.R. Bishnoi told IANS that frequent bandhs cause “gigantic inconvenience” to common people. “Today thousands of passengers were stranded at various railway stations and faced tremendous difficulties. Bandh culture should not raise its ugly head as it keeps all of us on tenterhooks. Massive police mobilisation is required to maintain peace and order,” he said.

Among other demands of Bodo groups are ensuring political right to Bodos living outside the proposed Bodoland Area.

Apart from ABSU, the agitation was also supported by People’s Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (P), which is led by rebel leader Gobinda Basumatary. The group is now in ceasefire with the government and is holding peace talks.

According to Bodo, only a separate Bodoland would protect, preserve and safeguard the identity of the Bodo people and their language, culture and traditions, which they say is being suppressed by the current Assam government.

The Bodo groups also outlined future agitation programmes, like Mass Gathering in November, Maha Rally, Dharna and Hunger strike in Delhi during the winter session of Parliament in December and 24-hr National Highway and Railway Blockade in January 2017.

Speaking about the Bodo situations, Bodo told IANS: “The Bodo people, an indigenous people of Assam are being victimised and face socio-economic exploitation, suppression, oppression and political domination. Seventy years of India’s independence has failed to protect, preserve and safeguard the land, identity, language and culture of the Bodo people.”

The movement for Bodoland started in 1967, with the establishment of the ABSU. Though the government has signed two Bodo accords in the name of resolving the Bodo people’s demand, both of them could not fulfil the political aspirations or address the fundamental demands of the Bodo people.

–IAN

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