PITCHING for peace from the once hotbed of an armed movement for Bodoland, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday urged Kashmiri militants, banned outfits in the North-East and Naxalites to lay down their arms, join the national mainstream and “celebrate life”.
Addressing a massive public rally here to celebrate the January 27 tripartite accord amid a spectacle resplendent with Assam’s cultural opulence, he also attacked the previous non-BJP Governments for “procrastinating” resolution of vexed issues that alienated people and made them lose faith in democracy and the Constitution.
“The Bodo accord has heralded a new dawn of peace and development in Assam. With people’s support, it has paved the way for permanent peace.
“Those still with bombs, guns and bullets in Kashmir, other parts of North-East, and Naxalites...Come back...Join the mainstream. Wapas laut aiye aur jeevan ka jashn manaiye (come back and celebrate life,” he said.
Modi said he was confident that the accord signed by the Centre, Assam Government and Bodo groups, will bring permanent peace, unlike the previous accords inked with insurgents in 1993 and 2003.
“With the signing of the historic agreement, no demand has been left unfulfilled,” he said.
Modi, who was on a visit to Assam for the first time after enactment of the new Citizenship Law, which plunged large parts of the State into a welter of violence, also sought to assuage the concerns of people of the region on the issue.
“Canard is being spread that lakhs of settlers will come from other countries after the enactment of CAA. Nothing of that sort will happen,” he said.
The Prime Minister had cancelled his visits to Guwahati twice in December last year and this January--first for a summit meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe and second to inaugurate the ‘Khelo India’ youth games at the height of anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests.
Several districts of lower Assam witnessed bloodshed and violence over many decades as Bodo militants of different groups launched an armed struggle for a separate State, locking horns with the State Government, Central security agencies, and other minorities inhabiting the area.
Bodos predominantly inhabit the northwestern part of Assam in districts like Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Chirang, Baksa, Darrang, Sonitpur, Kamrup, Nalbari, Barpeta, and Dhubri.
The proponents of the Bodo movement had for decades claimed the Bodos, one of the Indo-Mongoloid tribal communities, are ethnically different from the rest of the people of Assam and entitled to a separate State.
Primarily Bengali Muslims, whose roots can be traced to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and tribal communities like Santhals and Koch-Rajbongshis bore the brunt of ethnic violence unleashed by Bodoland proponents. Hundreds of them were killed and several lakh forced to live in relief camps in the 1990s.
“Now development is our first and last priority. Trust me, I am yours. When you have decided to shun the path of bombs and guns, I will do everything to ensure that not even a thorn pricks you,” he said. “There are no losers, everybody has won. But first, this is the victory of peace, of humanism,” he said of the accord and noted it will benefit both the Bodos and non-Bodos, who have often been in conflict. The area under the Bodo Territorial Region governed by a council will be expanded, he said.