The Bodo Women’s Justice Fighter, human rights activist, writer and academician to democratic politics and Ms. Anjali Daimary

The Indian security forces under the Arms Force Special Power Act (AFSPA), is committing many heinous crime targeting innocent civilians and easily get away with it in North East India. They are misusing the Act.

ANJALI DAIMARY, has waged war to control the excesses of the armed forces in the North-East.

Indeed, it was only because of the foresight of her father, a priest, that Daimary was able to complete her own studies and still the only female graduate from her village.

Deeply interested in the life of the Bodos, she traces the community’s struggles through the 1980s to the present day. As in most conflict situations, the women suffered the most as the two main militant groups, the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), waged their battles. Bodo women faced the brunt of raids by the police and security forces. Many were tortured, molested and raped.

In 1992, Daimary formed the Bodo Women Justice Forum to bring about awareness of the community’s rights. Though only women are members, they discuss issues pertaining to the entire community. “We used to go from village to village to mobilise people. We urged them to be conscious participants,” she says.

Daimary herself was arrested under TADA in 1993. A mother of two and the head of the department of Major Indian Languages (MIL) at Barama College, she was finally acquitted in 2005.

In 1996 and 1997, she had for the first time represented the Bodo tribe at the UN Working Group on Indigenous Population (UNWGIP) in Geneva. She is happy that there is now a UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) that discusses human rights issues of indigenous populations.

The activist, Ms. Golapi Basumatary was a well-known and respected activist who was the general secretary of the Boro Women’s Justice Forum and was a known figure not only in the Boro areas but in other parts of Assam as well. The killing of human rights activists, trade union leaders and others who try to use the democratic spaces to articulate dissent, is a deliberate state policy in Assam, according to reports of voluntary human rights groups (MASS 1999).

As reported by a staff reporter in the Assamese daily, Dainik Janambhoomi on November 25, 1998.

Bodo women in India writing to rouse consciousness

Bodo women in Assam, a state in northeast India, have been asserting their ethnic and nationalistic pride by participating in the struggle for political self-determination. They are now penning the grim realities of repression and mindless violence that their community is facing.

Incidents of rape by security personnel are not unheard of in Assam, where insurgent violence and ethnic conflicts have been raging for decades. And with the much-hated Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in force in the state, the perpetrators have almost always got away scot-free.

Two Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were accused of raping a couple of women in Udalguri district, which falls under the Bodoland Autonomous Territorial Districts (BTAD), but they are yet to be brought to book despite being identified by the victims.

This led to various protests and demonstrations, with hundreds of women of the Bodo Women’s Justice Forum, led by its president, Anjali Daimary, initiating a bold political demonstration with ‘Rape Us’ inscribed on their chests and backs.

Indeed, Bodo women have participated in large numbers in the struggle that the community has been engaged in to gain political self-determination and to assert its ethnic and nationalistic pride and identity.

The Bodos, despite being the largest indigenous community in Assam, have long been dominated by the Asamiya-speaking Hindu community at the helm of all cultural, political and socio-economic powers in the state.

Though the resentment against such domination had often found expression through political protests and submissions of memoranda, it was in 1987 that a full-scale mass movement was launched for the attainment of a separate state of Bodoland, with the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) taking the lead.

It started as a peaceful non-violent struggle but soon turned violent in pockets, while the ABSU floated a military wing – the ABSU Volunteer Force.

Women also participated in some measure – though never as direct combatants – in the violent activities that gradually grew in intensity under the subsequent armed militant formations like the Bodoland Liberation Tigers (BLT).

Only in 2003 was the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) accord signed and the area under the BTC jurisdiction, called the BTAD and which includes four districts – Kokrajhar, Baska, Udalguri and Chirang – was formulated.

But even the BTC control has not been able to put an end to the cycle of violence in the region. In fact, there has been an increase in fratricidal killings, with a handful of the ethnic elite gaining immense power, while the majority lower down in the social and economic chain still lives in deplorable conditions.

Choosing to write

The years of clashes and even the grim problems of today have found a reflection in the writings of some Bodo women, who have chosen to use their pen to describe the realities that their community is facing.

But there aren’t too many of them who have found much recognition. Thus, Renu Bodo, the first Bodo woman postgraduate in Assam, has been endeavouring to create a forum for all Bodo women writers in order to bring them together on a common platform and make their dispersed voices get heard in unison.

Renu has been writing extensively on social and cultural issues and she says that although her literary works are not exclusively on subjects relating to the Bodo community, they do aim at rousing social consciousness and cultural pride among her people. At the same time, Renu hopes that her writings would “inspire us to look within and identify our shortcomings, instead of blaming those around.”

Pramila Narzary is another Bodo woman writer who has in her occasional fiction writing criticised the evils under the new dispensation. Pramila was the first writer/ translator to win one of the highest State-sponsored literary awards – the Sahitya Akademi – for translations in the Bodo language in 2005 after the language was granted recognition under the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution in 2003.

Her short story, NREGA Jagra Hagra, for instance, talks about how political and community leaders have deprived the common people of their dues under state sponsored schemes for rural development, like NREGA, the 100-days job programme, introduced by the Centre. Her story also carries a message of hope when in the end the people rise up against rampant corruption and it also upholds the importance of political protest. But Pramila maintains that subjects like conflict are incidental to her writing.

Women like Pramila and Renu are few. Though the Bodos have been engaged in a nearly two-decade-long (1987-2003) conflict with the State, not many have directly addressed the issues of insurgent violence and the politics of identity, separatism and sovereignty in their works.

“At the request of our leaders, we would write one-act plays or poetry with political messages during the years that the Bodo movement was going on so that they could be performed in rallies and political meetings. They might have been printed in souvenirs or journals, thereafter, but we have not compiled them,” informs Renu.

And this is the sad story of political literature in Assam – it is occasional and undervalued. That is, of course, where it exists at all.

Indeed, consciously political writers – women or men – are a rarity not just among the Bodo, but also in Assam, in general. Very few writers have dealt with contemporary political realities, and even fewer have used poetry – or literature – for protest. In the highly politically charged atmosphere, it is quite surprising that so few writers have used a potent tool like literature to get their political messages across.

Political activist Anjali Daimary, for instance, has led hundreds of women in public protests, but as a translator, who has also won the Sahitya Akademi award for translation in 2007, her literary pursuits are not overtly political.

There are, however, a few writers who have proved to be exceptions. Anju Daimary, a writer who lives in Kokrajhar – the headquarters of the BTAD – claims, “I am not a consciously political writer. My writing is based on my impulses.”

However, she does recall writing a satire in verse on the ‘corpse of democracy’ after witnessing the many irregularities in the first democratic elections to the BTC.

These elections were held in 2006, three years after the signing of the BTC accord and they were characterised by a mad scramble for power, which led to immediate factionalism among the signatories to the accord as well as the creation of various disempowered sections within the community – including women who were not given any representation in the council.

Anju is also one of the very few Bodo writers who have focussed on the human angle of the protracted armed conflict that has perhaps dehumanised many, including members of her community.

One of her short stories, The Test, deals indirectly with insurgent violence. Its protagonist, a trainee militant, debates on questions of mindless killings. Ordered to assassinate an innocent old man, the trainee feels “…sweat on my forehead. When I set my target on birds, cats or dogs, I didn’t have to battle with my feelings. Now I felt my hands heavy, as if all the weight of my whole body had gathered in my right arm”. In the end the task is done.

“Dumbly now, I followed the lieutenant across the river. I couldn’t turn my head back. The bright moon was shining as a witness over my head.” Her words create a powerful image of the human response to the conflict and struggle the region has witnessed for decades.

For readers, writers like Anju and Pramila certainly hold forth the hope that there will be others like them who will – whether consciously or inadvertently – speak out against the protracted conflicts plaguing their community.

The activist, Ms. Golapi Basumatary was a well-known and respected activist who was the general secretary of the Boro Women’s Justice Forum and was a known figure not only in the Boro areas but in other parts of Assam as well. The killing of human rights activists, trade union leaders and others who try to use the democratic spaces to articulate dissent, is a deliberate state policy in Assam, according to reports of voluntary human rights groups (MASS 1999).

As reported by a staff reporter in the Assamese daily, Dainik Janambhoomi on November 25, 1998. Uddipana Goswami . Sep 16, 2009.


Bodoland: The Burden of History

The burden of history is proving ever so heavy for the indigenous peoples of Assam. Since the 1930s,1 the issues of land, immigration, demographic change and identity have been core ones in this region. In the years immediately preceding Independence when the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League were ranged against each other on the question of immigration of land-hungry peasants from the then East Bengal, the Assam Legislative Assembly debated at length on the land question, the rights of tribal communities to their lands and the demand by the immigrants to scrap the Line System. 

In 1937 the Assam assembly set up a committee headed by F W Hockenhull to look into the entire issue of land and suggest measures which could be ­acceptable to all the parties concerned. In his report submitted a year later, Hockenhull observed that the indigenous people by themselves would not be able to develop the wastelands, but he insisted that the Line System should continue and suggested stronger and more effective steps to prevent alienation of tribal land. Following the Hockenhull Report, the Congress ministry headed by Gopinath Bardoloi initiated several measures aimed at freeing the protected tribal land from encroachers. But permission for new settlements to landless peasants, both Assamese and immigrants was not stopped. Hence, the pressure from the immigrant lobby continued. Things took a different turn when, in November 1939, the Bardoloi ministry resigned following the AICC’s war directive and Syed Mohammad Saadulla took over with the full backing of the Muslim League. Soon after taking charge, Saadulla signed an agreement with the Assam Tribal League3 which surprisingly did not have any specific clauses on the land question, despite the latter’s insistence that the Line System should be strictly enforced to protect tribal land. Instead, Saadulla went ahead with his plan for settlement of East Bengal immigrants as demanded by the Muslim League which, in its first provincial conference held in November 1939, insisted that the Line System be totally scrapped and land be made available to all immigrants from East Bengal. However, the Saadulla ministry fell in December 1941 because of the withdrawal of support from the independent Assamese member Rohini Kumar Chaudhury and two other MLAs. Governor’s rule followed and in March 1942 the governor scrapped the Land Development Scheme. But when Saadulla returned to power on August 1942, the situation was politically quite congenial for him to go ahead with his Land Development Scheme which was clearly intended to ensure continuing support from the Muslim League legislators who had made their intentions clear of bringing in more immigrants into the province.4 Meanwhile pressure was mounting also from the Muslim League government in West Bengal where the state assembly passed a resolution calling upon Assam to open up its reserves to land-hungry immigrants from Bengal.5 Within a year of his assuming office, in August 1943 the Saadulla ministry adopted a new resolution on land settlement which provided for the opening up of grazing reserve areas and wastelands in the districts of Nowgong, Darrang and Kamrup to immigrants from Bengal as part of the “Grow More Food” programme6 aimed at helping the war economy. This scheme called for distribution of wastelands and the de-reservation of select grazing reserves in the Nowgong district, the de-reservation of professional grazing reserves in Kamrup and Darrang and the opening up of surplus reserves in all the submontane areas ­ostensibly for settlement of landless people, the overwhelming majority of whom were Muslim immigrants. Referring to this Amalendu Guha writes: S P Desai, a senior ICS man, was appointed Special Officer to ascertain what portion of professional grazing reserve could be declared as surplus available for settlement. Desai reported that the forcible occupation of grazing lands by immigrants had already taken place to a large scale, even in predominantly Assamese and tribal areas. His conclusion was that there was no surplus land available for new settlement. Ignoring the report, Saadulla’s Muslim League Coalition Government threw select professional grazing reserves open for settling immigrants.7

Opening Assam to Immigration

It was this scheme which opened up vast areas of central and western Assam8 to immigrants and had grave implications for the indigenes, especially for the tribal population who were accustomed to a different mode of agriculture. The tribal farmers lacked proper land documents and were accustomed to using “unclaimed land” for shifting cultivation. Initially, Saadulla’s development scheme met with roadblocks in the form of ­severe opposition from the Congress which effectively voiced the concerns of the indigenous peoples. But the Muslim League under the leadership of Maulana Bhasani9 had become more and more strident and continued to press its demand for further opening up of grazing reserves and the abolition of the Line System meant to protect indigenous and tribal land from occupation by immigrants. In its provincial conference held in April 1944 in the lower Assam town of Barpeta,10 the Muslim League demanded that the immigrants be given land or the Saadulla ministry should resign. Discussing the differences that had cropped up between Saadulla and Bhasani, Amalendu Guha observes:

Replying to Bhasani’s long harangue, Saadulla charged the greedy headmen of immigrant villages, dewanis and matbars, had unceremoniously managed to get for themselves pattas for seventy to hundred acres each, with a view to induct sub-tenants… He cited instances of their driving out even Assamese Muslims from newly reclaimed lands. To drive the point home, he drew a parallel with unrestricted Jewish migration to the Arab homeland. He pleaded for protection of Assam’s tribals in the plains from the onslaught of more enterprising settlers. Finally, he appealed for support to his policy, since the Line System had already been relaxed to a great deal with a view to its abolition.11

Differences with the Muslim League leadership as well as continued resistance to his land policy from the Congress, compelled Saadulla to try to reach a compromise and convene an all-party conference to discuss the issue. But this did not deter Saadulla from bringing in another resolution on the land issue in January 1945 where he tried to arrive at a compromise between the demands of the indigenes and those of the Muslim League. Speaking at the budget session of the Assam assembly in March 1945, Gopinath Bardoloi put up a tough fight against the Saadulla government’s policy of opening up the reserves and grazing areas to the immigrants. Referring to the anti-tribal policy of the Saadulla government, Bardoloi said:

The government resolution makes no provision for Tribal Blocks in areas other than places which have been termed as Tribal Blocks. This will make the position of the tribals impossible…the tribal people will have to move to the hills if they require land for settlement and cultivation. Bardoloi referred to Clause 15 of the government resolution which stated:

 The area required for them (the tribals) will be calculated at double the area occupied by the present people in the submontane tracts…it will also afford provision to other tribals living outside the area to be defined, who may wish to remove themselves within the tribal belt. Superfluous lands in the present loosely defined tribal area will be excluded and thrown open for settlement under the planned scheme. In other words, the tribals are not to find land in areas which are now under occupation by them, but they shall have to go to tribal areas…posterity will blame us if we cannot protect the rights of the indigenous people, the tribals (emphasis added).

Bardoloi was strongly opposed by the Muslim League members and Saadulla went ahead with his land development scheme which led to the opening up of more and more government reserve areas to the immigrants.

In 1946 the Congress was voted to power and one of the first acts of the Bardoloi ministry was to clear the grazing and forest reserves of illegal encroachers12 as per the tripartite agreement of March 1945. But resistance from the immigrants and the fear of reprisals on Assamese villages forced the government to go slow. Hence, the alienation of tribal land continued. However, within a year of Independence, the Bardoloi ministry, in a bid to prevent further alienation of tribal land, amended the Assam Land Revenue Regulations, 1886, and created reserved tribal belts in different regions with the aim of protecting the tribal people from competition from non-tribals, mainly immigrants. Ten tribal belts and 23 tribal blocks were constituted and it was hoped that the measure would prove to be a final check on occupation of tribal land. But in the hands of manipulative officials, most of the provisions were subverted. In the years that followed, continued pressure on land held by the indigenes kept mounting because of immigration from then East Pakistan.

Alienation of Tribals

The denial of Sixth Scheduled status for the Bodos, which would have given them constitutional protection when they needed it most to protect their land and identity, can be seen as one of the primary causes leading to the alienation of tribal land in the post-Independence years. The Bangladesh war added to the changing demographic scenario of the state, with several lakhs of immigrants, mostly Bengali Muslims, staying back in the Brahmaputra Valley. Finally, when the Assam Movement against foreign nationals erupted in 1979, the land issue proved to be the central one. Discussing this, M S Prabhakara writes:

 …The land question in Assam is extremely complicated and even more than the ‘ethnic’ dimension and the ‘threat to identity’, it was the land question which invested the Assam agitation with a measure of legitimacy. Vast areas of the state have for years been settled upon and cultivated by people who have no formal claims on the land.13

Thus, Assam has long been caught in the time warp and what we are witnessing today in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD) area is the result of failure as well as unwillingness on the part of the government to act decisively with a political will to put an end to the alienation of tribal land. As for the Assamese middle class, it was too occupied with the language question to give time to the progressive alienation of tribal land owing to continuous immigration, the strong and unambiguous stand that the Assam Congress leaders took during the Assembly debates before and after Partition notwithstanding.

Any attempt, therefore, to understand the present situation in the BTAD must take into account the fact that the Bodos have been a community long accustomed to shifting cultivation and their transition to settled farming is of relatively recent origin. During the colonial days the Bodo and other Assamese tribal communities were known to be averse to acquiring permanent tenure over land. This lack of formal tenure often made them appear as encroachers on government forestland and helped the immigrant non-tribal peasants to permanently occupy the land which was once the preserve of the tribal farmer. During the initial years of migration of peasants from the then East Bengal which was actively encouraged by the colonial state to meet its commercial needs, communities like the Bodos could still move within their land and practise their non-commodity production.14

The colonial administration was not happy with such cultivators because they practised temporary cultivation and were unwilling to pay land revenue. But as the flow on migration increased in the immediate years before and after Independence, tribal land was increasingly acquired by non-tribal immigrants who secured permanent tenure. Therefore, it was a losing battle for the Bodos who were pitted against the sedentary farmers who started raising cash crops.


1 The colonisation scheme which had been initiated by the British officials began in 1928 when large areas of Nowgong district, to be followed by Barpeta and Mangaldai subdivisions, were opened up primarily to immigrants from the then East Bengal. According to Amalendu Guha “during the six years preceding 1936, as many as 59 grazing, forest and village reserves had been thrown open in Nowgong under the Colonisation Scheme for settling the immigrants”. Guha writes: “The land-hungry immigrants, segregated and pitted against all odds, never appreciated the Assamese point of view. If all men were equal in the eyes of Allah, why should thousands of acres of land remain waste, particularly when men in search of a livelihood and lebensraum were available to them to turn into smiling fields?…They wanted the Line System to go”. See Amalendu Guha Planter Raj to Swaraj, p 210.

2 The Line System was first mooted in 1916 and adopted in 1920. It was an administrative measure aimed against the occupation of land belonging to the indigenous people by the immigrants. The clash of interests began when the immigrants started moving into areas held by the autochthones from their initial riverine bases. Under the Line System, a line was drawn in those districts which were under pressure from immigrants so that they could be settled in segregated areas specified for their exclusive settlement. But continuous encroachment by immigrants of lands earmarked for the local Assamese people ultimately made the Line System virtually infructuous.

3 The clauses relating to land settlement of tribal people were quite vague. Though it was agreed that steps would be initiated to defend the Line System, and settlement would be given to landless tribals “after taking into account the condition” of these people, yet no specific guideline or time frame was spelt out. The Tribal League has also been referred to as Plains Tribal League.

4 The majority of Congress MLAs were in jail because of the Quit India Movement.

5 The Bengal Legislative Council passed a motion on 16 July 1943, calling upon the Government of India to take immediate steps to remove all restrictions imposed by the Assam government on the land-hungry, emigrant cultivators from Bengal. See Amalendu Guha, ibid: 281.

6 Wavell termed it as the “Grow More Muslims” policy.

7 Guha, Planter Raj to Swaraj, pp 281-82.

8 Central and western Assam is today in the grip of Bodo-Muslim violence.

9 Abdul Hamid Khan, better known as Maulana Bhasani, was a peasant leader of East Bengal but soon emerged as an influential leader of the Bengali Muslim immigrants in Assam. He was elected to the Assam Legislative Assembly in 1937 and as president of the provincial Muslim League mounted a series of agitations for the withdrawal of the Line System and the opening of the tribal belts and blocks to immigrant peasants. In February 1947 Bhasani planned a series of marches against the Line System as part of the Civil Disobedience programme of the All India Muslim League. But when the possibility of Assam being included in Pakistan receded, the move fizzled out.

10 By the 1940s the Barpeta subdivision of lower Assam was emerging as a stronghold of immigrant Muslims. In 1911 Muslims constituted 0.1% of the population of Barpeta subdivision; by 1941, they constituted nearly 49%.

11 Guha, Planter Raj to Swaraj, pp 282-83.

12 Primarily post-1937 encroachers.

13 M S Prabhakara, “Land, the Source of All Trouble”, The Hindu, 15 July 1987.

14 For a discussion of the two land systems refer to “What Ails Western Assam?” by Arupjyoti Saikia, Seven Sisters Post, Guwahati, 10 August 2012.

15 As early as 1989, United Minority Front legislators in the Assam assembly accused the ruling Asom Gana Parishad of inciting the Muslim settlers against the Bodo tribals.

16 The Bodo movement for autonomy and separate statehood has passed through several stages. Initially, under the leadership of the Plains Tribal Council of Assam (PTCA) the demand was for a homeland for the plains tribal communities of central and western Assam inhabiting the north bank of the Brahmaputra. But owing to reservations expressed by the Mishing and Rabha communities, the demand got focused on an exclusive homeland for the Bodos who were the largest plains tribal group although clearly not a majority in the area earmarked by the agitators for a separate Bodoland. Under the leadership of the All Bodo Students Union which had the support of the militant United Tribal Nationalist Liberation Front (UTNLF), the movement acquired an increasing violent turn with government buildings. Schools and bridges destroyed and scores of civilians, both Bodo and non-Bodo being killed… Following the infructuous accord of 1993, Bodo militancy took on new wings with the formation of organisations like the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). There is evidence to suggest that the central government under the Congress encouraged Bodo separatism in order to create difficulties for the Asom Gana Parishad government of the state. Finally, with a change of government in Delhi, an accord was arrived at between the BLT and the GOI which paved the way for the amendment of the Sixth Schedule and the creation of the BTAD with electoral reservations for the Bodo community in the BTC which was given a large range of powers minus law and order which remained with the state government. With 30 of the 46 seats in the BTC reserved for scheduled tribes (Bodos alone in this case), and only five for non-tribal communities and another five open seats, the other communities which constituted almost 70% of the population felt left out of the democratic process. Though the accord provided for the protection of the land rights of the non-tribals, and did not bar any citizen from “acquiring land either by way of inheritance, allotment, settlement or by way of transfer if such citizens were eligible for such bona fide acquisition of land within the BTC area”, the clause was later on seen by the Bodos as a ploy to continue acquisition of tribal land while the non-Bodos felt that this particular clause was not respected by the Bodo leadership.

17 For an analysis of the early phase of the Bodo movement, refer “Bodo Stir: Complex Issues: Unattainable Demands” by Udayon Misra, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol XXIV, No 21, 27 May 1989.

18 That demographic change was a major concern was reflected in Clause 8 of the Memorandum of Settlement between the GOI and the All Bodo Students Union signed in February 1993, which stated that “the BAC shall, within the laws of the land, take steps to protect the demographic complexion of the areas falling within its jurisdiction”. Though this clause does not figure in the Bodo Accord of 2003, it points to the demographic challenge that small nationalities in the north-eastern region have been facing primarily from immigration.

19 Though exact figures regarding occupation of tribal belts and blocks and government reserve land are not available, it is a known fact that over the years there has been continuous encroachment. In figures released by the state government as way back as 1986, immigrant Muslims, former tea-garden workers, Nepalis and non-tribal Assamese constituted almost half of the total number of settlers in the 25 forest divisions of the state where some 1,74,489 hectares were under occupation.

20 Prabhakara, The Hindu, Madras, 2 August 1994.

21 It was this faction that has been held responsible for the highly coordinated bomb blasts which shook Guwahati and several other towns on the 31 October 2008 which claimed scores of lives.

22 The Bodo People’s Front which is a coalition partner of the Congress government led by Tarun Gogoi is made up of former BLT members.

23 Till date official figures put the number of killed at 97, with the immigrant Muslim settlers bearing the brunt of the violence. But many Bodos have also lost their lives and over a lakh have been displaced.

24 According to observers, there has been a Christian-non Christian fault line within the Bodo movement right from the beginning.

25 Even the state government has, in so many words, accepted the presence of migrants from Bangladesh in some of the camps and the chief minister has gone on record saying that his government would provide relief to foreign nationals but the question of rehabilitation did not arise.

26 Muslim and adivasi (Santhal) victims of earlier rounds of violence in 1993, 1996 and 1998 are still lodged in camps in Bongaigaon and Kokrajhar.

27 For details about displacement figures from 1993 onwards, refer to “Conflict-Induced Internal Displacees and Their Security: A Case Study of Lower Assam” by Subhash Barman in Akhil Ranjan Dutta (ed.), Human Security in North-East India: Issues and Policies, Guwahati, 2011.

28 Up to April 1989, for instance, as many as 150 civilians were killed and these included those gunned down in fratricidal strife between the supporters of the All Bodo Students Union and the Plains Tribal Council of Assam (PTCA) as well as state government employees and schoolteachers.

29 These settlers included, apart from the immigrant Muslims, non-tribal Assamese, adivasis and Nepalis.

30 Subhash Barman, op cit, p 227.

31 It may be recalled that the growing tension between the immigrant Muslims and the tribals was highlighted as way back as 1989 when during a session of the Assam Assembly a United Minorities Front member accused the Asom Gana Parishad of inciting the Muslim settlers against the Bodo tribals.

32 Recently, BTC chief Hagrama Mohiliary announced a grant of several lakhs of rupees for the setting up of centres at the initiative of the Asom Sahitya Sabha for Bodo and Assamese language training in the BTAD area.

33 During the Bodo movement, scores of Assamese civilians, schoolteachers, petty businessmen were targeted and Assamese peasants in many Bodo-majority areas were compelled to sell off their land at throwaway prices.

34 Clause 10 of the Assam Accord reads: “It will be ensured that the relevant laws for protection of encroachment on government lands and lands in the tribal belts and blocks are strictly enforced and unauthorised encroachers evicted as laid down in such laws.”

35 A long-standing demand of the All Assam Students Union and other Assamese organisations.

36 Though Clause 4(3) of the Bodo Accord contains safeguards for the “settlement rights, transfer and inheritance of property, etc, of non-tribals”, yet the general complaint of the non-tribal population has been that their citizenship rights have been totally marginalised by the accord and that they have been reduced to a second-class citizen status.

Tribal political affairs in the Assam during 1933-1947

There should be a enormous effort and endeavor to spotlight on how the tribal leadership constructed a united platform based on a common distinctiveness to fight for their issues in the pre colonial period of Assam. There should be an undertaking to study how they had disintegrated into individual autonomy activities of each tribe in the post colonial period of India.The formation and structure of bourgeois politics introduced by the British colonial state in India was limited and preventive. In spite of the domination of great nationalities in it, a number of insignificant groups could grasp a space for themselves in this bourgeois politics. At the same time as the hill tribes of north east India were constrained by colonial laws barring them from active politics, the plain tribes were not so providential. Taking benefit of this situation, the original tribes of the Great Luit or Brahmaputra valley stimulated themselves in the political showground. Fascinatingly, these tribes to begin with united into a multinational group to fight back for socio political empowerment as well as fight the supremacy of caste Hindus. The focal point of their politics was in the order of issues of defining and constructing a “tribal” characteristics. Their most important focal point was to turn down to be absorbed into the Hindu high caste society, temple entry, access to their land, displacement from customary habitation areas and wide-ranging backwardness.

Associative politics prior to 1933

“Plains Tribes” is a term used in the contemporary political and administrative discourse from the 1930s when it was introduced by the British as a generic term clubbing the valley tribes like the Kacharis (Bodos), Mikirs (Karbis), Miris (Mishings), Lalung (Tiwa) and Rabhas together. Its continued usage by the tribal leaders is indicative of the appropriation of the term in an attempt to unify these varied communities on a single platform for political purposes.

Parallel to the efforts of the colonial state and ethnographers to define and locate the “tribal” of the Brahmaputra valley, there was also an effort by the various “tribal” communities to locate themselves in the socio political milieu of the colonial state. The early 20th century saw the emergence of various associations within these communities, which culminated in the emergence of the Tribal League in 1933. A direct cause and effect relation cannot be established between those early quasi political organisations and the Tribal League, but their importance in shaping the nascent political and sociocultural consciousness of the people is undeniable. The Mels, inspired tribal conventions (like the Kachari convention, Miri convention, etc), matured the nascent “tribal” consciousness, which resulted in the formation of the Tribal League as a mode of organised tribal politics.

From the 1920s onwards, growing political consciousness with Congress mobilisations and emergence of caste associations (like Ahom Sabha, Kaivartta Sanmilan) gave an impetus to the emergence of associations of “tribal” communities like Chutiya,Moran, and the Kacharis. Early in the 20th century, through the initiative of an educated middle class, the Kacharis, Mikirs, Miris and Rabhas made certain progress in comprehending the politics of rights, representation and emancipation. In their effort to “develop”, “uplift” or “improve” the conditions of the tribes, various attempts were made by this emerging leadership to locate the reasons for their backwardness and to introduce reforms in social practices. Kalicharan Brahma, Sitanath Brahma Choudhary among the Kacharis and Samsonsing Ingti among the Mikirs were the real pioneers. Their attempts to redefine tradition, adjusting to colonial modernity, were also the first steps towards the construction of the tribal identity.

The arrival in 1929 of the Simon Commission in Assam provided them the scope to put forward their grievances and aspirations to a royal commission for the first time. The memoranda and petitions presented to the Simon Commission show the presence of a strong political consciousness cent ring on the notion of the tribal identity. Various associations, especially of the Kachari (Bodo) community, submitted a number of memoranda to this commission. The commission took into consideration the memorandum by the Bodo community of Goalpara and few representatives from the “Primitive and Backward tribes” were inter viewed. The petition by the Bodo community observed that the benefits of reforms were enjoyed by the upper castes, thereby depriving the backward communities. In order to safeguard their interests, the community demanded separate representative in the local council and one reserved seat for the Bodos in the Central Legislature. They deplored their backwardness and recognized education as a means of development and fight against exploitation. They complained that they were illiterate because people are always misled, they cannot understand the value of reforms, they cannot save themselves from the hands of the foreign moneylenders. The leaders, as representatives of respective tribes, used the colonial imagery of the tribe as backward, semi savage, ignorant to put forward their political claims and for seeking colonial protection. The 10th convention of the Assam Bodo Chattra Sammilon in 1929, under the supervision of Rupnath Brahma, reiterated the necessity of education for progress and better utilisation of the opportunities offered by the colonial state. Therefore they urged the setting up of schools to struggle against illiteracy, rather than depending on the government. Likewise, delivering the presidential address to the Assam Kachari Jubok Sammilan in 1929, Benduhar Rajkhowa stressed on establishing schools in every village through the people’s own initiative, and by pressurising the local boards to fund them.


The leadership also contested the classification, in the census reports, of these tribal communities as low caste Hindus. The memorandum submitted by the Assam Kachari Jubok Sammilan, suggested that to regard the tribal as Hindu was misleading, for the latter do not receive them into their society, do not dine with them and are mostly unsympathetic with their ideas and aspiration. They asserted that the Kacharis were never a part of the caste divided Hindu society, and were “independent” by virtue of not being bound to the “chariot wheels of the Hindu community”.  So by the late 1920s ideas about the  distinctiveness of tribal culture became an important part of what was defined as “tribal identity”. The notion of a tribal unity was initially conceived during this period, though the attempt was made on a small scale in imagining a unified “great Bodo/ Kachari” tribe whose past was traced through the invention of a common history. Interestingly, they also refused to totally severe this identity from the Assamese one. On the question of territo- rial transfer of Goalpara to Bengal, members of the various Kachari organisations claimed themselves to be Assamese on the basis of cultural affinity. As mentioned earlier, Kalicharan Brahma’s efforts to introduce Assamese as the medium of instruction also point to a parallel political and cultural identification to an Assamese identity.

The formation and emergence of the Tribal League in 1933 as a common platform of all the Plains Tribes also involved a parallel process in self representation. The numerically small, educated tribal elite attempted to define their tribal identity as a “community of the Plains Tribes”. The Tribal League envisioned the unity of the various tribal communities. Thus, there emerged the single, monolithic notion of the “Plains Tribes”. Though essentially it was a geographical term delineating the tribes of the Brahmaputra valley as distinct from the tribes who lived in the hills, the tribal elite, and later tribal representatives in the assembly, asserted this community’s interests in opposition to the interests of other communities (like the Muslims, caste Hindus, hill tribes and tea garden labourers). The “Plains Tribes” category was invented by the colonial authorities to ethnographically classify the tribal section of the population in the plains, which was later, after the 1935 Act, given the status of a separate constituency. The tribal elite appropriated this construction to articulate their political aspirations.

Tribal politics and land Questions

Tribal land alienation was intensely debated in the legislative assembly in relation to the issues of immigration and occupancy of agricultural land by the immigrants. Immigration from east Bengal had assumed significant proportion in the 1930s. Though the colonial government encouraged the immigration as a means of settling cultivable waste in the hope of raising more revenue, the government also introduced the Line system in 1920 as a means of protecting the tribals. The Line system envisaged the drawing of an imaginary line demarcating two distinct areas and no occupation of land by the immigrants was allowed beyond this “line”. It was introduced in Nowgong and by 1930 it was operating in most districts of upper Assam. The Tribal League saw it as a colonial intervention to safeguard tribal lands. But the system did not work in reality in the same manner as it existed on paper. It was never strictly implemented, nor was it very effective in the absence of a strong government authority at the local level. Despite its existence there was land alienation, which led to numerous sessions of questioning, adjournment motions and heated debates in the assembly.

In 1937, the Muslim League moved a resolution for the abolition of the Line system. Members of the Tribal League, Rabi Chandra Kachari, and Rupnath Brahma opposed the resolution and it was eventually withdrawn. The necessity of the system as a protective measure was reiterated by Rabi Chandra Kachari in the following words, “There should be a Line system to protect the weak and backward people.Without a Line of demarcation it is not possible to look into the interests of the poor people who require special protection.” The tribal representatives in the as- sembly thus defended the continuation of the Line system and expressed their fear that if it was abolished “crores and crores of immigrants will come in and the original ruling people of Assam will have to leave the place for the jungles and hills”. This argument, of endangering the tribal by letting them face the immigrants, displacement from their areas, and the crucial question of their existence in peril, was repeated throughout the period of 1937-47 with growing intensity  Rupnath Brahma demanded enforcement of the Line system in Goalpara because “many tribal people in Goalpara have been compelled to leave their homes and settle elsewhere. Even some non tribal members of the assembly like Naba Kumar Dutta and Mahi Chandra Bora also condemned the efforts to abolish the Line system and criticised the government’s lack of concern for the ousted indigenous people including the backward classes like the Kacharis and the Lalungs, who were driven out from their villages and had “taken shelter in the forests.Under the colonisation schemes the government opened up reserve lands, dereserved forests and professional grazing reserves, displacing the indigenous people. The colonisation scheme also entailed paying a premium for occupying the land, which, the Congress and Tribal League representatives claimed, the indigenous people could not afford to pay. However, as Maulvi Sayidur Rahman said in support of the colonisation scheme, legally there was no bar for the indigenous people occupying land. Members like F W Hockenhull insisted that the indigenous people did not occupy land because of the ample availability of free cultivable lands to them, and not because of want of capital. But, as claimed by others, there was “practically no suitable arable land outside the colonisation areas and almost all cultivable lands have been occupied by the immigrants” and urged the government to stop the process of settlement of lands.30 Karka Dalay Miri, the representative of the Miri tribe in the assembly, opposed colonisation because of the growing scarcity of land, which would restrict further expansion for the indigenous people. In view of the escalating pressure, colonial administrators like Hockenhull asserted that there was “no real issue at all between the indigenous and immigrant population”. The logic was that the type of land (char-riverine land) favoured by the immigrants was not being cultivated by the indigenous people. Even Purna Chandra Sarma, the Congressman, illustrated with examples from Nowgong district the defective and biased functioning of the scheme. He complained that the tribals of Nowgong were without land “and there has been no consideration to those people because they are not immigrants and cannot afford to pay any premium”. It was also pointed out that these lands originally belonged to the tribal communities like the Lalungs and Kacharies which were opened for colonisation in Nowgong.35 Protest against such violation of rules and regulation evoked, according to the leaders, only mild responses and often biased enquiries. For the officials, the system was working satisfactorily despite reports of violation of rules and regulations. Addressing the 1940 Budget session, Beliram Das, representative of the backward castes, attacked the Sayid Muhammad Saadulla ministry for its policy on the immigrants. The flow of immigrants was compared to an “invasion” into the “lines and reserved areas” causing great panic.36 The deliberation of the legislative assembly, the subsequent land settlement policy and conflicts over land made it amply clear that available arable land was becoming scarce. It was further aggravated by occupation of vast wastelands by tea gardens and the opening up of professional grazing reserves for occupation. As the anti-displacement voice grew stronger, various en- quiries were set up by the government to look into land alienation by tribals. These discovered that, in many cases, the tribal sold off their lands to the immigrants. The Deputy Commissioner’s report stated that there were other instances where the tribals sold their land to the immigrants and themselves migrated to central and upper Assam in the hope of getting rehabilitated by the government under some developmental schemes.  The absence of cash to pay taxes also forced the tribals to sell their lands. The tribal representatives emphasised the cultural differences between the Muslim immigrants and themselves and op- posed creation of immigrant settlements near tribal villages. Karka Dalay Miri, representative of the Miri tribe, drew the assembly’s attention to the displacement of the Miri people of Gorumara in Sissi Mauza, Dibrugarh, and also to the cancellation of pattas (land records) to Miris and Deuris, who had settled in Bahgara and Dhunagiri in Bihpuria Mauza, North Lakhimpur.The Assamese middle class and the Congress also articulated fears that “land hungry” immigrants were a threat to the existence of the indigenous peasantry.The aggressive attitude of the immigrants which manifests itself in wanton trespass on the land of the indigenous population, offences against women, mischief upon the crops of the indigenous population and various other crimes disturbed the peaceful atmosphere of the lo- cal rural people.The 1931 census aggravated the tension on the question of demographic balance. The superintendent of census operation, M Mullan termed the coming of the immigrants an “invasion”. J H Hutton, the census commissioner of India in his report wrote,These immigrants, who are prolific breeders and industrious cultivators, are unruly and uncomfortable neighbours. These immigrants threaten to swamp entirely the indigenous inhabitants and in the course of two or three decades to change the whole nature, language and religion of the Brahmaputra valley.The sense of vulnerability increased because of reported cases of forcible occupation of tribal villages and lands. But such cases were often exaggerated. For example, the Hindu Mahasabha claimed that it was “getting alarming reports of forcible occupation of lands in massscale by Muslims in Meteka Borbeal, and many other villages in Namati Mauza in Mikir Hills, Nowgong. Mikirs (were) becoming panic stricken at this lawlessness”. Another telegram mentioned that “innumerable Muslim immigrants, Surma Valley Muslims occupying lands in Meteka Borbeal,    Hatipara,    Jamunagaon,    Maudonga,    Howraghat,Dighae pani, Dakmaka, Chulani, Parakhowa, Sorgathi villages within Mikir Hills area, Namati Mauza, Nowgong against all previous restrictive prohibitive order. Great consternations amongst Mikirs prevails. Pray Excellency’s immediate intervention. The tribal representatives and the Congress leaders attributed the land grabbing to the connivance of Muslim government officers and the immigrants. Thus, they protested, even genuine complaints and eviction orders were left without any action being taken.Gradually from 1937 to 1947 such demands become more persistent against increasing violations of rules and regulations. A committee was constituted to inquire into the working of the Line system. The report submitted by F Hockenhall, of the “European party”, emphasised that the “…. indigenous people alone would be unable, without the aid of immigrant settlers, to develop….but it was also in favour of the Line system and strong measures to protect tribal lands. The Bordoloi ministry, after much deliberation, agreed to evict all immigrant squatters from areas declared “protected tribal blocks” in the submontane regions. Following the committee’s report, the Congress coalition adopted a land settlement policy, which was published in a gazette extraordinary of 4 November 1939. The points it emphasised were (a) the importance of maintaining grazing and forest reserves meant for public use and ordered immediate eviction of encroachers – immigrants or non immigrants; (b) the interests of the tribal and backward people were to be jealously guarded and large blocks in sub-montane areas inhabited by tribals were ordered to be made prohibited areas; and (c) due provision was to be made for the reservation of large areas for the natural expansion of indig- enous populations. During the Saadulla ministry the Muslim League again demanded the abolition of the Line system. Regarding the issue of the protection of the tribals and for that pur pose allowing the system to continue, Maulavi Syed Abdur Rauf said, …the Line system question has been harped upon by the opposition to win over tribal friends … But if they require protection, they require it against all non tribals. Most of the tribal representatives felt that the protective measures that were adopted were inadequate so far as the interests of the tribal people were concerned. The Congress criticised the Saadulla ministry for failing to provide protection to the tribal. They feared that these “indigenous people of the province – the tribal and the scheduled castes are soon to be driven away to the hills to make room for the invading hordes of immigrants.

In the 1940s, on the issue of amending the conditions of the Line system, the tribal representatives demanded legislative changes and laws to evict all illegal settlers; whether they had settled before or after April 1937. In June 1940 a government resolution put a ban on settlement of wastelands by any immi grants entering Assam after 1 January 1938. The Saadulla ministry was continuously pressurised by the tribal representatives and Congress members inside and outside the assembly to prohibit the settlement of wastelands by immigrants coming after 1 January 1938. The Muslim League members opposed this for there was no way to distinguish a pre-1938 immigrant and a later “intruder”. The Saadulla coalition ministry was throughout criticised for its anti Assamese, anti tribal and pro immigrant stand, through its minister Abdul Matin Choudhury declared officially that protection of the backward tribals was the “bedrock of their policy”.

In this period the debate was around the question of land alienation. As the question of the Line system and protection of the backward classes became a contentions issue, the Congress used this as a political instrument against the Muslim League, though its own concerns remained suspect with the Tribal League. Due to the absence of funds, the tribals could not avail various developmental schemes.56 Blocks continued to be opened as also the professional grazing reserves. The Congress contin ued to stress on the necessity of maintaining the professional grazing reserves and also demanded that wastelands should be measured and areas reserved for the indigenous population before settling the immigrants. However, the Congress’ national level leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru felt that immigration was an economic necessity and, though not supporting its abolition, wanted a relaxation of the Line system. The conflict around the land question acquired new dimensions when the tribal people began occupying areas where the immigrants were settled. According to Md Amiruddin, “some 350 Mikirs, Lalungs and Kacharis headed by the gaonburas (village headman) came … not only broke down the houses … set fire to most of them and turned the colonists out of their homesteads and holdings as well.”59 He tried to convey that the allegations against the immigrants were baseless and condemned the tribal as “rioters” and “trespassers”. The Congress successfully won over the tribal representatives, by focusing on Saadulla and his “pro Muslim politics”. Saadulla was caught between the two groups – the tribal representatives demanding protection and the Muslim League calling for the abolition of the Line system. From 1937 onwards, the tribal representatives in the assembly demanded more stringent legislation to stop land alienation and blocked efforts of the members of Muslim League to abolish the Line System.

1941 census as the site of contestation

The 1941 Census refrained from providing religious classification in Assam. Compilation for communities was done with reference to “race, tribe and caste” and not religion, as it was in the case of the 1931 Census. It evoked strong criticism from various sections of Assamese society and led to a debate in newspapers as well as in the assembly. The Congress criticised the government for manipulating the census operations so as to conceal the correct figures of the followers of different religions. An adjournment motion was called to discuss the census operations. It was under the Assam provincial government’s insistence that K W P Marar, the census superintendent, issued a special circular to the deputy commissioners and census officers in Assam to compile data on the basis of community. He wrote,

the basis for community is the answer to questions 3, but generally the communities are unavoidably mixed up and where community cannot be ascertained in answer to question 3, to question 4 will be the basis; e g, if a Kachari has not in answer to question 3 mentioned that he is a Kachari, and is returned under question 4 as Hindu, Muslim or Chris- tian, he will be shown as Hindu, Muslim or Christian as the case may be, but if he is returned as a Kachari against question 3 he will be en- tered such irrespective of his religion.

The government stated that the purpose of clubbing communities professing different religions was to create a “separate entity under the constitution for the purpose of franchise. Siddhi Nath Sarma, for instance, clarified that as the tabulation would be done on the basis of “community”, and not on religious lines, it would simplify the problem of treatment or classification of the primitive tribes. He added that in this way their total number regardless of their religion could be recorded. These efforts on the part of the colonial government to seek out community iden- tity corresponded to the Tribal League’s own efforts to project the community identity as one, unified, tribal people. And for this purpose the Tribal League carried out propaganda. A bulletin of the League was taken out with the main objective of instructing the tribal people about enumerating themselves in the census. The Tribal League’s definition of tribal was broad-based and included those who were otherwise classified as “Hinduised”. Religion was a secondary aspect of the identity. The essence of tribalness was the existence of distinctive rituals and customs, rules and regulations, which were retained, therefore, aiding the preservation of a distinctive lifestyle often in totality and some cases partially.

Further, the Tribal League also emphasised the separateness and differentness of the social structure of the tribals and caste Hindu Assamese. The focus was on two polarised societies where no intermingling ever existed. The “independence” of the tribal from the Hindu society was claimed. By rejecting placement in the caste hierarchy, which was perceived as degrading in the Tribal League’s discourse, it sought to acquire equality on their own plane, within the restricting political space provided by the colonial state. By not subscribing to the worldview of the caste Hindus the tribes had already taken a step towards redefining their identity. The discourse contested the efforts of certain groups to classify the tribals as “Harijan Hindus”, which was per ceived as a ploy to club them together with the low castes. The Tribal League persistently opposed various moves by more con- servative circles and the Congress, to categorise them as a part of the Hindu society.

According to the Congress and some others, the enumeration should have taken into consideration the important factor of religion while classifying the communities. The colonial state claimed that it wanted to simplify complex categorisation in tab- ulation and wanted to “avoid in their argument provoking terms such as ‘Hinduised’. The superintendents, though, could dis- cuss complexities and it was noted that some discussions on the religious affiliations of the tribals and the degree of their Hinduisation would be both of interest and value. Hinduisation was not the sole concern but conversion to Christianity also drew official attention, and it was suggested, “…it is important to know to what degree they have entered the Christian or other fold”. The Guwahati Rajhowa (Public) Census Committee along with others published a public notice stressing that, despite the instructions of census officers and the Tribal League, the tribal population need not necessarily state their religion, as instructed, according to their jati, i e, Kachari religion or Lalung religion. They could enumerate “as they were”, i e, accordingly stating their religion Hindu, Muslim, Christian and animist. Such an appeal was made to save the interests of the “Assamese”. It was also emphasised that the definition of a Hindu was not narrowly confined to the people in the caste hierarchy but was wide enough to incorporate people who could be termed as Hinduised. It was observed, “A lot of tribals who have been converted to Vaishnavism, Saraniyas, still stick to certain food habits like eating pork and fowls, but on that basis they should not be classed as otherwise, i e, according to their tribal name, but be classified as Hindus.”

Ambikagiri Rai Chaudhuri of the Assam Siksha Prachar Samiti appealed to the tribals to think twice before enumerating themselves. He stressed on their being a part of a greater Assamese society calling them its backbone and asked them to desist from supporting the community based enumeration to preserve that identity. He referred to be colonial situation and suggested that such divisive tendencies would prolong colonial domination. More or less similar sentiments were echoed through the articles and editorials of the newspapers.

The Saadulla government came under increasing attacks from the Congress. The Congress accused the then provincial government, of using the census as an instrument to encourage fissiparous tendencies. The Tribal League was also criticised for being a pawn in the hands of the colonial government. The Saadulla government and the Muslim League were accused of attempting to alter the demographic structure of society, in a bid to join Pakistan. The overarching concern was the decrease in the population of the Hindus. The concern towards the tribals arose from the fear of growing immigration from east Bengal and census data showing “alarming” increases in the population of Muslims. The only way visible to the middle class leadership to maintain a demographic balance was to conflate the figures of Hindus by adding to it the numbers for the plains tribe’s populations.

The 1941 Census was perceived as an attempt of the government to fragment the unified Hindu community by stressing on community identity than on religion. This propaganda urged the Lalungs, Rabhas, Kacharis, Mikirs and other “communities” to demand classification as “Hindus” as opposed to “tribals”. Editorials in newspapers also addressed the same issue. It was conceded that there was nothing novel or wrong in calculating the tribal population but doing so solely on the basis of community, not qualified by religion, gave a distorted impression of reality, like showing a huge increase in the tribal population.

Many protested against their classification as “animist” or according to their tribes. The Sonowal Kacharis were, for example, stated to be Hinduised for a long time and followers of rules and regulations of Hinduism, and had priests officiating the rituals. Various associations of the tribal communities like the Assam Bodo Sammilan, Assam Kachari Sammilan, Assam Miri Sammilan were not consulted by the Tribal League to discuss the issue of enumeration and therefore the latter could not be said to represent all the tribes. Some sections of the Kacharis refused to be classified as tribals along with Miris, Deuri and Mikirs. The tribal representatives were criticised for attempting to distort reality by categorising all tribals en masse together under one head. The Rabhas asserted that they be recognised as a separate community and not be treated as a branch of the Kachari tribe. It was argued that religion-wise they have to be classified either as Hindus, Christians or animists. Other than the Congress, the Christian representatives in the Assembly opposed such a classifi- cation as, “Figures given in the last census are defective and incomplete inasmuch as that Christians have been shown at such a low figure. The word ‘community’ itself could not be explained, it is a misnomer, when we mean a community, whether religion is to be taken into account or the race that is a question which very few people will be able to explain. In the face of such evident protest from various sections Rupnath Brahma, member of the Tribal League and then a minister in the United Party government, claimed that he would present before the House “the exact feelings of the tribal people on the matter. The Tribal League’s position was reiterated in the Assembly. “As regard the tribal people of the plains they have their own Tribal League and there is a feeling, and indeed there had been a solemn resolution of that League to the effect these tribal people should be shown together irrespective of any religion and they feel that unless and until that is done their future is doomed and they will stand nowhere. He also denied the reports that tribal people in some places had protested against classification on community basis and emphasised the fact that “the existing Tribal League is the only provincial organisation under which all the plains tribal people of the province function. According to Rev L Gatphoh, classification on the basis of community brought out the strength of the tribal people and contradicted the impression given by censuses till 1941 “that tribal people in Assam were a dying race or races.”

Protest, against the manner in which the census was conducted, was registered by people like A V Thakkar, a Gandhian. He also called the enumeration on the basis of community a “strange phenomenon” and questioned the classification which clubbed various tribes under one head, the plains tribes. “But under the new classification, now adopted in 1941, they are all classed as aborigines or one community of tribals (unless they declined to fill in column 3 for race or tribe) though there is nothing like one com- munity but a number of (more than 20) communities, each tribe being a community by itself.”88 He also criticised the colonial state’s communal award, facilitated by the 1935 Act, which granted separate representation to the tribals for the first time. “They have since 1935 got separate representation to the tribal for the first time…we have since 1935 got certain political rights and importance, a tribal gentleman and a tribal lady MLAs are included in the Cabinet, (by the Congress coalition government only the former and by the present non Congress government both) and a wave of awakening has come over them.”

The great increase in the population returned as tribal is thus explained not in the positive aspect of identity consciousness but as politically motivated. “Thus religious faith and cultural affinity have proved to be nothing before political power. This because of the colonial state’s policies and the tribal elite’s manipulation, the tribes who sought to assimilate and were “slowly absorbed amongst Hindus on one side and among the Christians for the last 50 years on the other, must have en masse swung to the ‘Tribal Community’.”91 As a rejoinder to the comment, the editor published a note, which defined tribal in the context of community, and noted that,

As the word ‘tribal’ in the present census is not used to indicate religion but only community or tribe, I think, the Assam Census Superintendent would appear to have been quite correct in classifying as aborigines such aboriginal. In fact it is advantageous to the aborigines to be classified as such and injurious to them to get themselves returned as Hindus. For by becoming Hindus they sink into the degraded class of ‘Harijan’, or depressed classes. Moreover, by recording themselves as ‘aboriginal’ or ‘tribals’ they stand a chance of political advancement. For in the next Indian Government Act, an increase in the recorded number of aboriginals is expected to ensure them a larger number of seats in the Legislatures. We think that lovers of abo- rigines should rejoice rather than grieve over the recorded increase of ‘Tribals’ or ‘aborigines’ in any province.

Entry to the temples

The Tribal League’s efforts to distance itself from caste Hindu Assamese society in carving out a “tribal” identity was also evident when the Assam Temple Entry Bill was introduced in the Assembly in 1940. Ghanashyam Das, the mover, regretted the fact that most temples were not open for some sections of the so- ciety, the so-called depressed and backward classes. According to him, temple entry was not restricted in the past and came into existence only recently. He illustrated how the Vaishnava preacher Sankardeva believed in equality and that is why “even a Javan like Jayahari Ata, a Miri like Bolai Ata, a Bhot like Damudar Ata and a Kachari like Ram Ata were given equal status in his re- ligious society.” His treatment of the tribes was reflective of a dominant trend, placing them in the hierarchy of the caste struc- ture and the discourse of “upliftment” which defines them as low-caste Hindus. The preconceived assumption bracketed the tribal with the low caste Hindus, who were denied entry into most temples. The dominant Assamese caste Hindu society did not perceive the plains tribals as a separate entity. Such an attitude is evident in Ghanashyam Das’ speech:

…. in the Doul festival in Barpeta a man having sympathy for his fellow brothers cannot bear to see the sight when the tribal and depressed classes are refused, with harsh words, entry to the Kirtonghar. You cannot look at their eyes when they return with tears running down their sad faces.

He compared the equality shared by tribal and non-tribal representatives in the Assembly house where he saw no apparent distinction between Rupnath Brahma, Rabi Chandra Kachari, Rohini Choudhuri and himself. The presence of discrimination in the social structure would not allow the above-mentioned tribal representatives’ access into any temple. He pointed out, if my friend M Rabi Chandra Kachari wants to enter the Barpeta temple, he will also get no access there. Is it not painful, sir, and is it not humiliating? Should this distinction remain? No matter, sir, their sympathy with me for their depressed and tribal classes will surface…. I have a duty. I should perform that duty.

Doubts were raised by the government about the extent that the Temple Entry Bill would benefit the tribals. Rohini Kumar Chaudhuri questioned whether the bill would help the Kacharis

and other animists. He also stated the bill’s definition of a Hindu, which was defined as “one who is such by birth and reli- gion and one who is a convert into it excluded the tribes. By that logic “the animists will be clearly excluded by this definition of the term ‘Hindu’. So this bill will not at all give them any right. Rupnath Brahma, then a minister in the provincial government and representative of the Tribal League, clarified his organisation’s position whether tribes can be termed Hindus and whether the bill would benefit them:

I have been asked by the honourable mover whether I myself and my people are Hindus or not. On this point I do not like to enter into any open discussion in this house, but this much I can tell the house that amongst the tribal people there are Christians and there are some who have adopted the Hindu religion and the rest of them  have  been treated as animists. I may say that they are quite independent of the Hindu society – they are certainly not so called low caste Hindus, they have got a distinct form of religion of their own, and they do not care if they are allowed to have entrance in the temples. I think these people are not so much anxious to have access to public temples, or any temples.

Another member, Gauri Kanta Talukdar, rejected the necessity of classifying the tribal separately as animists, such categories being largely colonial constructs:

It is a matter of great regret that following blindly the Christian missionaries and their friends, the European writers and some of our own countrymen are calling the tribal peoples ‘animists’. Sir, I vehemently protest against the use of the expression ‘animists’ in the case of our brethren of the tribals communities. It is a misnomer, it is an insult levelled against these people to call them animists. Who has been us- ing this expression? Has it not been done by the missionaries with the object of exploiting these peoples? Is this not a surreptitious attempt to alienate a portion of our brethren from the Hindu fold?

He used a broad definition of Hinduism, as given by the Hindu Mahasabha, which was inclusive of all religions which had originated in India. According to him the simple act of calling oneself Hindu (irrespective of practices and rituals), made one Hindu because of its all-inclusive paternalistic nature. Rupnath Brahma’s denial of the positive effects of the Temple Entry Bill for the tribals people was criticised by the Congress, with its populist claims for social upliftment. According to Ghanashyam Das, Rupnath Brahma represented only the tribal elite and was “modern” in his views and therefore did not attach importance to entry into a temple. Brahma’s opinion was called a personal viewpoint and not representative of the voice of the tribal people. The tribal society being a part of the wider Hindu society there was, asserted Talukdar, “people who are religious minded and who like to worship God inside a temple”, and they should not be deprived of that right.

Education as a Means to empowerment

In the Legislative Assembly, through the articulation of the Tribal League members, the construction of another image of the plains tribes took shape: the image is of a “backward” community. In the speeches of the tribal members we find a sense of self- depreciation, which drew heavily from the internalisation of colonial, official and ethnographic images of the tribes.

The sense of cultural inferiority integral with the term ‘tribal society’ enunciated by the colonial ethnology was too embedded in the psychology of the educated tribals to inspire them… not surprisingly, the tribal leaders consciously presented themselves as ‘backward’ people before the statutory commission amounting to negation of their own culture.

By virtue of not being a part of the dominant mainstream culture the appellation of backwardness in various aspects, subsequently, entitled protection and special provisions so that such conditions disappear. It was stressed that the tribes not only inhabited back- ward tracts but were backward in every aspect, be it in education or other social conditions. The reasons of backwardness, accord- ing to Rabi Chandra Kachari, could be partly attributed to internal inability or handicaps to progress and partly (probably most importantly) “due to indifference of our more fortunate brethren and want of proper encouragement at the hands of the government.” The necessity of “protection and special treatment real and substantial” for large tribal populations, which were “poor, weak and ignorant”, was the dominant mode of articulation.

Therefore, the tribal leaders perceived education and employment as modern means of empowerment and social emancipa- tion. The emerging tribal elite, who constituted the Tribal League perceived modern education as empowerment. There was the re- alisation that in order to create, and preserve, an identity one needed instruments like education. As one tribal member of the Assembly observed,

At present, education is the most vital problem for the tribal, backward and scheduled castes people. They now feel what is education and they are now realising that without education they are nobody and nowhere in the civilised world.

So within the scope of provincial politics, another aspect of assertion by the representatives of the Tribal League was for securing the right to education. The level of education in colonial Assam was quite low, and the plains tribes were lagging behind in this aspect more than other communities. So with the commu- nal award of 1935, and their own representatives in the Assembly, demands for better educational facilities and opportunities were put forward. These demands were mostly for setting up more schools in tribal areas, increase in funds, reservation, scholarship and free studentship for tribal students. Bhimbar Deuri, one of the founding member of the Tribal League and also member in the Legislative Council, while discussing the various problems of the tribals, also focused on the question of education;

Amongst these problems the amelioration of the condition of the masses, the eradication of the opium habit and the spread of education among all classes, particularly among the backward classes, are the most urgent needs.

But cognition of the problem and acting upon it were two sepa- rate processes. The initial jubilation among the tribal elite for the communal representation in the Assembly and over provincial autonomy soon evaporated. It was evident that development under the colonial government would not be easy. Rupnath Brahma’s speech during a budget session reflects this attitude,

Nowadays we hear a great cry in the country for the upliftment of these backward people, we have been given to understand that the government also have taken up special responsibility for safeguarding of the interests of the minority people… but it is surprising that no- where in the budget we find any specific provision for the upliftment for the backward tribals of the plains.

In fact, inadequate budget allocation for education and grants to fund schools were perennial problems. Rupnath Brahma, another tribal representative in the Assembly, expressed his disappointment and dissatisfaction in such a situation:

We expected this time our popular and responsible government would come forward with definite scheme for education of the backward tribal people of the plains, but unfortunately to our utter disappointment no specific earmarked provision has been made for the plains tribals in the present year’s budget also… it is a known fact that the tribal people of the plains are the most backward people in the whole province and I think government has greater responsibility for the education of these people. If there is no definite move from the government for education of these people, then I think all nation building projects will be left far behind in Assam.Not much was done to address those grievances and condi- tions did not improve radically as evident in Rabi Chandra Kachari’s speech.…the tribal people of the plains are very backward in the point of education. But we find a small amount of  rupees,  8000,  has been earmarked for the expansion of primary education among the tribal people of the plains. This money is quite insufficient because on aver- age only 4 schools from each of the 12 subdivisions will be benefited from this grant. But in each subdivision we have got more than 50 lower primary schools. We are also neglected by the local boards, as we cannot be properly represented in the boards. So I request government to earmark a sufficient amount for the expansion of education in the tribal areas of the plains, so that we may have a special impetus in education.The reliance on liberal policies of the colonial state to improve their conditions and “civilise” them soon disappeared and most of the tribal representatives lamented that after more than a cen- tury of British rule in Assam there was a lot to be done yet. Karka Dalay Miri, representative of the Miri tribe, complained that though hill tribes and the Muslim students were conferred free studentship and scholarship, no such special provisions had been accorded to the backward tribals of the plains. The backwardness was due to the absence of supportive provisions. According to him, groups like the Miri, Kachari, Deuri, Lalung, Khampti, Mikri, etc, were backward in education due to the lack of adequate schools. Khorsing Terang, representative of the Mikir Hills, stressed that education was necessary to transform the “inhibited, animal like Mikir”, into a “proper civilised human being”.The tribal representatives came up with various solutions to the problem of providing education. It was suggested that such problems could only be solved if the government established one lower primary school in every five to six villages. In many areas the local people (the tribals) took the initiative to open schools in the hope that such venture schools would be taken over by the local board. But not many schools were actually taken over by the local boards and very few scholarships were provided. Another demand was that a special officer for education of these people should be appointed, as it was done for the Muslims. Under such pressure the Congress ministry, when in power, increased funding of tribal education. It was also decided that eight tribal students will receive free studentship. The earlier norm was that out of 13 free studentship eight would be for the Muslims and rest to others. Lack of adequate funding and disinterest on the part of the colonial authorities was observed by the tribal representatives and the Congress members who criticised their motives, “Instead of giving us better facilities for education they have given us facilities for opium pills and some doses of liquor only”. Haladhar Bhuyan, congressman, pointed to the self interest of the colonial government in their policy towards the tribes, for whom nothing was done till the declaration of provincial autonomy. The awareness of the tribals regarding the necessity of education was also attributed to the spread of Congress’ message since 1921.

By the 1940s the Tribal League had reified the idea of a distinctive tribal identity, mostly for political and social reasons. The tribal elite, in envisioning an identity constructed a discourse of backwardness and different-ness in opposition to other commu- nities. Though on the latter there was consensus, on the former it came into conflict with other political organisations like the Congress. On issues of land alienation, displacement and deprivation also the tribal leadership received the support of the Congress. The controversy around the census gave rise to sharply defined notions about religion and identity. The Tribal League’s support for the community based enumeration bereft of any religious content, illustrated the strength of the idea of unified plain tribes as a political category. Likewise, in the temple entry issue the clear position maintained by tribal leaders, of not being part of the Hindu society, also points towards efforts of engendering identity in opposition to the caste Hindu society. In this, it came into conflict with that section of the Assamese society which believed that the Assamese community was endangered from the immigrants and was trying to build a greater Assamese nationality. This Assamese intelligentsia wanted the tribals to remain an integral part of the Assamese nationality. The tribal leadership had the option of either recognising the ties with the Assamese and accept a subordinated position in a caste society, or move away from it and claim independent identity which would ensure development and empowerment. It is the negotiation of this relationship that has defined politics in colonial and post colonial Assam to a large extent.

The Assam Legislative Assembly since pre independence to 2016.

Since 1826, the British ruled Assam as a part of Bengal under a Commissioner. With the annexation and clubbing of Cachar, Naga Hills, Khasi and Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills, the territorial area of Assam grew to 30,000 sq miles. Soon it became difficult for the British to run such a vast area. The Lt. Governor of Bengal who was overall in-charge of Bengal and Assam became over- burdened. A proposal was therefore mooted in 1871 to separate Assam from Bengal. The other reason was the rapidly expanding tea industry which needed more attention; and, Assam,under a separate Chief Commissionership,would provide better facilities to the tea planters. Accordingly,the Chief Commissionership for Assam under the government of India was formed on 6th Feb 1874.

The new Commissionership included the five districts of Assam proper (Kamrup, Nagoan, Darrang, Sibsagar and Lakhimpur), Khasi-Jaintia Hills, Garo Hills, Naga Hills, Goalpara and Sylhet-Cachar comprising about 54,100 sq miles. Ironically, Koch-Behar a part of Assam,was left out and Sylhet, an East-Bengal district was incorporated into the province in 1874 on grounds of economic viability. Sylhet became a liability and after a prolonged agitation by the Assamese, Sylhet was transferred to East-Pakistan in 1947. The head-quarters of Assam was supposed to be located at Guwahati but because of the malaria infested marshy lands and as well as in maintaining geographical contiguity between the Brahmaputra and the Surma (Cachar /Sylhet) valley, Shillong was chosen as the capital of Assam in Sep, 1874. The Lushai Hills were transferred to Assam in 1897.

With the partition of Bengal in 1905, Assam was again clubbed with East-Bengal to form a province known as the East-Bengal Assam province. After wide spread protest by the Assamese, Assam was again restored to its original status in April 1912. The Govt. of India Act was passed in 1919 and Assam was upgraded to a Governor’s province. Now the colonial Assam included the Surma valley, the Hill districts and Manipur apart from the territories that were included in the Chief Commissionership of 1874. The boundaries of Assam were decided by the colonial administrative convenience and imperial interest rather than based on history or culture. Thus, colonial Assam excluded areas that were part of pre-colonial Assam and included areas that were historically not a part of pre-colonial Assam.

The Govt. of India Act of 1935 which introduced Provincial Autonomy was the outcome of the third Round Table Conference in London. The Govt. of India Act of 1935 came into force in 1937. According to the Act, Assam should have a Legislative Council with 22 members and a Legislative Assembly with 108 seats as per the provisions of the Communal Award of 1932. Election was held in Assam in 1937. The Congress came out as the largest single party with 33 seats in the Assembly. But the Governor called on Saadullah, leader of the Muslim party of the Brahmaputra valley to form the Government. He became the first premier of Assam and formed his ministry on 1st April 1937 by taking support from the Europeans and other tribal and non tribal members. In reality the European bloc together with the bureaucrats holding the actual power in the Government was the deciding factor. The Assam Legislative Assembly first met on 7th April 1937 in Shillong.

Saadullah’s ministry was forced to resign twice; first, by the Muslim League and then by the United Muslim Party by passing a no-confidence motion until Gopinath Bordoloi formed the first Congress-coalition ministry in Sept. 1938 with Subash Chandra Bose’s help. The Bordoloi led ministry resigned in 1939 at the direction of the Congress Working Committee and Saadulla became the premier till the election of 1946. The Congress swept the 1946 election with 50 seats and a Congress ministry was formed headed by Gopinath Bordoloi. In 1947, India became independent and the first General Election was held in 1952. Bishnu Ram Medhi, who took over as the Premier of Assam after the death of Gopinath Bordoloi in 1950, formed the first Congress Government in post colonial Assam. When the Constitution of India was drafted, the Congress members from Assam in the Constituent Assembly and the Assam Legislative Assembly demanded greater provincial autonomy with limited power at the Centre. Since 1946 election, Congress dominated the Assam Legislative Assembly with a brief stint (19 months) of Janata Party rule headed by Golap Borbora in 1978 and the ten years rule (1985-90, 1996-2001) by the regional party AGP headed by Prafulla Kumar Mahanta.

Shillong grew from a small village to a wonderful town and remained the capital of Undivided Assam till 1972 when it was shifted to Guwahati in a most unceremonious way with the creation of Meghalaya. The Assam Government (the Secretariat and the Assembly) functioned from a warehouse located at Dispur. A century- old capital got transferred over -night. It was the worst decision ever made by the Sarat Chandra Singha’s ministry and a great tragedy for Assam. It took another three and a half decades to build a permanent capital complex at Dispur. While Shillong stagnated, Guwahati, as a capital of Assam grew rapidly in a most unplanned and haphazard way. Guwahati become the gateway of the North East.

The inclusion of Sylhet and the large scale immigration from East-Bengal led to unrest in Assam. The history of colonial Assam from 1874 to 1947 was a history of Assamese-Bengali and Hindu-Muslim conflict. The fears and anxiety of the Assamese continued in the post independent period, which was the root cause of the anti-foreigner movement from 1979-85. The post colonial Assam witnessed another kind of conflict. The emergence of ethnic nationalism demanding sovereign independent states outside the Indian Union and the hills-plains conflict. The colonial policy of segregating the hill areas as excluded areas culminated in the alienation of the hill peoples. The Indian State responded by the division of Assam, gradually separating the hill districts one after another.

From 1963-87, Assam was reduced to one third of its size with the creation of Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. Assam being the mother state, the Assam Legislative Assembly became the mother of the Legislative Assembly of these carved out states. The Indian State carried the division of Assam empowered by Article 3 of the Constitution and the powerless Assam Government stood as a silent spectator. The Assam Legislative Assembly was arm-twisted to follow the Centre’s diktat in passing resolution supporting the division. The balkanization of Assam was done against the recommendation of the States Reorganization Commission of 1955 which recommended even the unification of Manipur and Tripura with Assam to make the whole North-East as one territorial unit.

Though the geographical boundaries of Assam had undergone territorial changes and reduced in size, the number of members in the Assam Legislative Assembly increased from 108 to 126. Presently Assam is having three district councils under the 6th schedule and six autonomous councils. Six more ethnic groups are also agitating for schedule tribe status. Hence, Assam requires a Legislative Council or Upper House which can represent and accommodate the aspirations of the different ethnic groups that represent the greater Assamese nation. The Council members should be elected and not nominated by the ruling party. Like his predecessors, Tarun Gogoi’s ministry which formed three successive governments since 2001 should also demand greater autonomy for Assam to solve the peculiar problems facing the state.

The Assam Legislative Assembly has crossed 79 years of existence and the state Government is celebrating its platinum jubilee in 2012. Over the years, as the problems of the state increased, there is qualitative decline in the standard of debates in the Assembly which has lowered the dignity of the esteemed House. The simplicity and humility of the bygone legislators are no more. The unruly behavior of the legislators reflects their arrogance, money and muscle power. The duration of the Assembly sessions were also reduced. The businesses in the Assembly as well as the legislations are passed without proper debate. The entrance of legislators of doubtful citizens in the House of law making is a matter of serious concern. Presently, the Assam Legislative Assembly is doing business without an effective Opposition headed by AIUDF, a party with a communal tag. Even then, the Assam Legislative Assembly is the only democratically elected forum which has a very important role in guiding the destiny of the troubled state.

Maulavi Saiyid Sir Muhammad Saadulla, Premier

April 1, 1937 September 19, 1938

Gopinath Bordoloi, Premier

Gopinath Bordoloi, Premier September 19, 1938 November 17, 1939
Maulavi Saiyid Sir Muhammad Saadulla, Premier November 17, 1939 December 24, 1941

Gopinath Bordoloi, Premier

February 11, 1946 August 6, 1950

Bishnu Ram Medhi

August 9, 1950 December 27, 1957

Shri Tarun Gogoi  May 17, 2001-2016



Tribal politics of Assam:1933-1947.
Tribal politics of Assam:1947-67
Tribal politics of Assam:1967-Udayachal movement
Tribal-Bodos politics in the Assam:1967 Bodoland movement
Bodos politics in the Assam:1993-2003 BTC
Bodos politics:2003-2016.


The Tribal League which was formed in1933 under the leadership of Rupnath Brahma and Rabi Chandra Kachari. In 1937, the Muslim League moved a resolution for the abolition of the Line system. Members of the Tribal League, Rabi Chandra Kachari, and Rupnath Brahma opposed the resolution and it was eventually withdrawn. The Tribal League had to fight with the Muslim League under the leadership of Maulavi Saiyid Muhammad Saadulla in Assam Legislative Assembly – MLA 1937-46. Then Tribal League had joined hands with Indian national congress under the leadership of Gopinath Bodoloi after independence.
PTCA: Plain Tribals Council of Assam
Udayachal  movement.

The Plain Tribals Council of Assam is a political party in the Indian state of Assam. In 1966, the PTCA launched a militant agitation for a separate tribal state called ‘Udayachal’ under the leadership of Samar Brahma Chowdhury and Charan Narzary, President and General Secretary of PTCA respectively. in 1968 PTCA boycotted the state Assembly Election on demand of re delimitation of the Tribal Reserved constituencies.
The Plains Tribals’ Council of Assam was formed to articulate the demands of the tribal people living in the “tribal belts and blocks” in the Luit valley. This memorandum was addressed to the then President of India, Dr. Zakir Hussain on May 20, 1967. Mr. Biruchan Doley, Mr. Samar Brahma Choudhury, Mr. Charan Narzary, Mr. Praful Bhabara and Mr. Ajit Basumatary were office bearers of the organization and signed the said memorandum in Kokrajhar town in Assam.

“Autonomy or Death”:The beginning of fratricidal killing
In the 1980s, Boro agitators painted the words, “Autonomy or death” on their bodies. This dramatic position itself has been the product of years of systematic mobilisation of political resources of the community that sees its position of marginalisation as a failure of institutions of representation and participation. In 2001, the government of Assam signed a cease-fire agreement with one of the factions of the armed opposition political groups, the Boro Liberation Tiger Force (BLTF). Subsequently, the cease-fire agreement culminated in the signing of the Memorandum of Settlement of the Boro Territorial Council in 2003. The “treaty” was meant to have been a centrepiece in the conflict resolution techniques available to the State apparatus in India. However, instead of leading to the reduction of violent conflict, it has only added to the volatile ethnic polarisation in the region.

If we see and analyze the long history of Bodos we see lots of ups and down faction of Bodos.
The Bodo predicament is complex and multidimensional. Initially it was a cry for identity, which was endangered by the myopic outlook of the then chauvinistic groups ruling BTC. Then the question of ascertaining political rights and constitutional safeguards came up. The creation of a separate state of Bodoland is the common goal of all Bodo organizations today. As time passed and as it happens with most armed revolutions, Bodo nationalism was losing its good spirit. There was ideological divide which led to formation of two armed insurgent faction namely Bodoland Liberation Tiger (BLT) & National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).
The so called great leaders of the community who came into power after a bloody agitation have been doing nothing for the commoner. The progress and development is only visible when one looks into the brand new SUV or the car showrooms owned by these leaders or their relatives. They are doing nothing for the development of Culture, Education, and economic development for the common people. They are found to be treacherous who are playing dirty game of politics with common people lives. The Bodo population is still far away from the basic amenities. Every now and then they make into news for malpractices, witch-hunting etc. Although infrastructural development has happened in Bodoland as with other part of Assam, many aspirations of common Bodos still remain unfulfilled. The commoners are not getting any benefit and if the situation prevails there would be another movement soon by common people to seek freedom from Dirty game of politics.