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Bodo violence: Contest for power and territory



On May 1 and 2, 2014, the Bodo Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) were afflicted by ethnic violence when 41 bodies were discovered in Baska and Kokrajhar districts. Non Bodos, including migrant Muslims, who constitute the majority, allege that their failure to vote for the Bodo People’s Front (BPF) candidate Chandan Brahma in the recent Lok Sabha elections resulted in the fatal retaliation. This has been linked to remarks by BPF leader, Pramila Rani Brahma, who had commented on April 30 that the Muslim migrants had not voted for Chandan Brahma.

Muslims have propped up their own independent candidate, Naba Kumar Sarania alias Hira Sarania, a former United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) rebel in Kokrajhar. This seat has always been represented by a Bodo parliamentarian.

The Assam government suspects the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit faction) to be behind the attacks though the latter has denied any involvement. The state government is thinking of arming Bengali-speaking Muslims in Bodo areas for self-defense.

Changing Demography and Escalating Tensions

The genesis of this strife can be traced back to as early as 1978 when in a Lok Sabha by-election around 45,000 illegal migrants’ names were found on the voter’s list in Mangaldoi, Darrang district. That was a covert move by the Assam state to legalize migrants with voting rights at par with bona fide citizens of India clearly implicating the government, driven by seditious vested interests versus delivering on the constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens. The failure of elected representatives to protect people’s land from illegal occupation was and is one of the primary reasons for overwhelming insecurity over land holdings.1

The first strike against this revelation was kick started in 1979 resulting in the massive All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) led ‘Assam Agitation’ against illegal Bangladeshi migration from 1979 to 1985. During that agitation, violence against Muslim immigrants continued, with the 1983 Nellie massacre being the worst with over 2000 Muslim migrants massacred in a single day. Districts like Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Darrang, etc, had also witnessed violence during the Assam Agitation over illegal migration.

Notwithstanding all previous events in the decade from 2001 to 2011, as per census figures of 2011, there has been a sharp increase in Bengali speaking Muslim population. The four districts of the BTAD have had highest increases of Muslim versus Non-Muslim population growth (See Figure I). With ever escalating social tensions, in October 2008, violence over issues of land encroachments was sparked by the incident of alleged violence meted out to a Bodo youth, Rakesh Swargiary, by Muslim minority youth. The news of this attack spread like wildfire amongst the Bodo community resulting in widespread violence between the two communities.2 The Bodo community was already on the edge after two Bodo youths were killed in Rowta, Udalguri in August 2008 after they had refused to take part in a bandh called by the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU).

The next series of violence took place in 2012 after four Bodos were allegedly hacked to death in a Muslim dominated area in Kokrajhar district. The violence quickly spread to neighboring Dhubri district after a bandh was called by the AAMSU in the BTAD thereafter. Again in 2012 the underlying cause of this violence was the rising tensions between the Bodos and the immigrant Muslim communities over issues of land. Between 2007 and 2012, Muslim immigrants had migrated in large numbers from Dhubri to Kokrajhar district especially its Gosaigaon sub-division. This created enormous pressures on agriculture land, one of the vital means of livelihood for indigenous communities. In 2012, 11,066 Bengali speaking Muslim families in the BTAD had been verified as bona fide land-owners with legal documents to prove their ownership. The actual number of immigrant families far exceeded this number and were the bone of contention for the Bodo community.3

Legal and Administrative Remedies
The original Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act of 1983 to detect and deport foreigners in Assam was a non-starter, and consequently struck down by the Supreme Court. As Assam state and BTAD districts are faced with extraordinary circumstances with deadly consequences, law makers have to enact and enforce new laws for effective legal remedy.

But laws are useless if the executive drags its feet subservient to vested interests and political machinations. It is imperative that the government immigration agencies generate reliable verified data on the number of people coming in from Bangladesh into Assam. It is also the government’s constitutional obligation to maintain the veracity of electoral rolls listing only citizens with the right to vote. Any illegal schemes and ploys to include non-citizens can have grave security implications for the country and has to be treated as serious transgression of law.4

To rectify the damage already done, the administrative authorities have to implement modern technology and mechanisms to replace the current ambiguous and easily manipulated land records system. If citizens have the guarantees of their legal holdings being protected by law, that will go a long way in alleviating apprehensions of the most precious commodity i.e. land resources. All unauthorized voters who figure on the official records have to be disenfranchised to protect the sanctity of democratic practices. Finally, India will have to take steps under the laws of the country to identify and deport foreigners without authorized immigration documents. Considering the scale of the issue in Assam, India would need to have consultations with Bangladesh to rehabilitate these people in their country of origin. Moreover, given the fact that there is a market for unskilled labour from Bangladesh in Assam, work permits based on a stringent visa granting process should be established where processes are transparent with effective oversight.

Ironically, it is not identity per se that leads to conflict but when one ethnic identity grouping assumes power and territory by illegal means thereby relegating the original ethnic identity group to an inferior status in their own land, conflicts of this nature are bound to arise.

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.

Originally published by Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (www.idsa.inhere .

Namrata Goswami

Dr Namrata Goswami was Research Fellow at IDSA She is a recipient of the Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Fellowship, 2012-2013.

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Security Forces Notching up Great Success Against Maoists/Naxals

Elimination of Left Wing Extremism (LWE) cadres has increased by 88.6% while surrenders have increased by 92.2% in the last three years.



Elimination of Left Wing Extremism (LWE) cadres has increased by 88.6% while surrenders have increased by 92.2% in the last three years (2015-17) as compared to the preceding three years   (2012-2014).

In 2017, the 35 most affected districts accounted for 88.5% (804 out of 908) of LWE related violent incidents. Just 20 districts accounted for 80% of the violence. LWE violent incidents were reported from only 58 districts across the country in 2017.

There is no plan to involve the Army in the fight against Left Wing Extremism except for the ongoing training assistance. Helicopters made available for LWE affected States are used only for logistic purposes.

The Government has a multi-pronged strategy to deal with Left Wing Extremism which involves security-related measures, developmental interventions and ensuring rights & entitlements of local communities etc.

The strategy has resulted in an overall improvement of the security situation both in terms of reduction in violence and geographical spread of Left Wing Extremism thereby creating conditions that are conducive to speedy development work.

Other measures taken to ensure faster execution of development work include simplification of forest clearance procedures. In addition, regular coordination meetings and reviews are undertaken at the level of the Home Minister, Cabinet Secretary and Home Secretary with line ministries and the States to ensure removal of any hurdles in the execution of projects. All these measures have contributed towards the speedier execution of development schemes.

This was stated by the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Hansraj Gangaram Ahir in a written reply to questions in the Lok Sabha today.

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Karnataka’s Cong Government Seeks Separate Religion Status for Lingayats

Karnataka’s Siddaramaiah-led Congress government has decided to recognise Lingayats as an independent religion and seek approval from the Centre for the same. 



Karnataka’s Siddaramaiah-led Congress government has decided to recognise Lingayats as an independent religion (from Hinduism) and seek approval from the Centre for the same. The decision was taken after a cabinet meeting and consultation with Lingayat seers.

The Cabinet took the decision to accept recommendations of the Justice Nagamohan Das Committee, which had asked the state to accord a separate religion tag to the Lingayats.

If recognised as a minority religion, the Lingayats will be able to avail of benefits under Section 25, 28, 29 and 30 of the Constitution.

What makes the timing of the move particularly suspicious is that Karnataka is just about two months away from elections and Lingayats, who currently form 17% of Karnataka’s population, is a major vote bank for political parties.

In the recent decades, the Lingayats have emerged as strong supporters of the BJP. Experts suggest that if a separate religious status is granted to the community, the BJP will have a tough time explaining its ideological stance based on Hindu solidarity. Former Chief Minister and current CM candidate of the BJP, BS Yeddyurappa, is also from the Lingayat community.

The Congress, predictably, hopes to gain much from the desired branching.

The agitation is not a new one – and has forever revolved around a single core question viz., who are the Lingayats and what precisely is their religious identity?

Who are the Lingayats:

The tradition of Lingayatism is known to have been founded by social reformer and philosopher Basavanna in 12th century Karnataka. While there exists a debate around whether Basavanna founded the sect or if he merely reformed an existing order, there can be no doubt that under him the community acquired the form of a well-organised, structured mass movement. Followers of the sect continue to revere him as the founder and prime philosopher of their religion.

Social reformer and philosopher Basavanna (Wikimedia Commons)

Basava grew up in a Brahmin family with a tradition of Shaivism. As a leader, he developed and inspired a new devotional movement named Virashaivas, or “ardent, heroic worshippers of Shiva”. This movement shared its roots in the ongoing Tamil Bhakti movement, particularly the Shaiva Nayanars traditions, over the 7th- to 11th-century.

Basavanna’s vision of a societal order was one based on human freedom, equality, rationality, and brotherhood. He and his followers spread their ideas through vachanas (prose-lyrics) and their prime target was the caste hierarchy which they rejected with full force. In one of his vachanas, Basavanna asserts that “the birthless has no caste distinctions, no ritual pollution.”

Lingayat sect first emerged within the larger trend of Bhakti movements that had swept across South India from the 8th century AD onwards.

The Bhakti tradition was a social reform movement that took birth within Hinduism but strove to rectify what the followers saw as the unjust practices within the tradition.

But, historians like K Ishrawaran say that while the conventional Bhakti movements remained adjacent to the Hindu system, Lingayatism challenged the system in its most basic form and became a highly structured movement.

Other historians say that the most striking feature of this institutionalisation was that unlike other Bhakti movements, Lingayat status was hereditary in nature!

The desired differences aside, however, the one aspect that indicates the association of Lingayatism with Hinduism is the former’s relationship with Veerashaivism.

Veerashaivism is also a Shaiva sect within Hinduism and is predominantly located in Karnataka. It’s supporters claim that Basavanna was not the founder of the Lingayat tradition, but rather a reformer of an already existing religious tradition called Veerashaivism.

The Veerashaivas accept the Vedic texts and almost all Hindu practices.

Moreover, despite insisting upon the contrary, Lingayatism, quite like Jainism, does assimilate many aspects of Hinduism that are influenced by or drawn from the Upanishads and the Vedic traditions.

The close associations that the Lingayat followers share with Hinduism, both sociologically and historically, thus make it a complicated case of to be or not be Hindu.

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NIA Files Charge Sheet Against ISI Agent for Blackmailing Indian Army Lady Officer



Today (12th of March 2018) NIA filed a charge sheet before the NIA Special Court, Patiala House, New Delhi against accused Mohd Parvez in case no. RC-21/2017/NIA/DLI.

The allegations are that accused had sent obscene and morphed WhatsApp images and messages from a mobile phone and Facebook ID with a veiled threat to circulate them on social media, to the complainant (a woman), thereby causing mental harassment to her as well as threatening to ruin her reputation.

The woman, a colonel in the Indian Army posted in Delhi, complained to the Delhi Police. The case was handed over to the NIA.

This was done in pursuance of a deep-rooted conspiracy hatched by Pakistani Intelligence officials and the arrested accused with a view to compromise an officer of the Indian Army into divulging national security secrets.

The incident was reported in mid-September. By the end of the year, the case came to the NIA. In less than three months, the charge sheet has been filed. The woman officer told investigators that the man approached her with the alias Ikta Sharma.

Parvez, who lived in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, was known to frequent Pakistan and had multiple SIM cards.

The charge sheet has been filed against accused MOHD PARVEZ, 43 years, a resident of 1867,
Gali Patte Wali, Sui Walan, Chandni Mahal, Delhi-110006 under section 120B read with sections 123, 354D, 417, 418, 420, 468, 471, 506 and 507 of IPC and sections 66E and section 67 of IT Act and substantive offences under sections 123, 354D, 417, 418, 420, 468, 471, 506 and 507 of IPC, sections 66E and 67 of IT Act 2000 and section 18 of UA(P) Act 1967.

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