ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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NEW DELHI-Electoral Politics at Cost of Economy

separate state and are prepared only to discuss the modalities of its formation. In the mean time every hundred-hour or three hundred-hour bandh raises the death toll. Entire hamlets are reduced to ashes. There is fear and suspicion clutching at everyone's throat in the affected areas. The tribal belts and blocks promised by the caste-Hindu Assamese leaders to the tribals before partition (which had been instrumental in weaning away the tribals from the influence of the Muslim League) had been given effect through legislation. But in practice these have been heavily breached again and again. The tribals are now a decided minority in most areas claimed by the Bodos for their separate state. It will be a superhuman task to re-group the mixed population and construct a state with a more or less homogeneous population. It is now too late probably to reverse epochal demographic trends and dispossess people who have struck deep roots in the land that theoretically belongs to the tribals alone. The Bodo grievance can best be solved through a package deal, which may in clude eviction of a non-tribal people who have encroached on tribal belts after a cutoff year, say 1979, creation of small autonomous regions where the Bodo population is comparatively numerous, but with obviously limited functions, special safeguards for their language and culture (Bodo had been granted the status of associate state language already under Hiteswar Saikia, though its implementation has so far been perfunctory) and, in my opinion the most important part, sharing power with the tribals at the highest level in the state, with Bodo members having permanent berths in the state cabinet and smaller tribes being represented on it by rotation. Portfolios like tribal development should be put in the hands of tribal ministers. In this way most of their fears and worries may be set at rest without drastic and meaningless re-organisation of the state, and the political and cultural hegemony of the Assamese may be tempered. It is most unlikely that the centre which likes to fish in troubled waters will be happy with such a set-up. But then there is the sobering thought that Assam may well turn into another Punjab.

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