Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2012: Ethnic Violence in Kokrajhar

  • Ever since the clashes between Bodos and migrant Muslim groups in 2008, Kokrajhar, the seat of administration of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), has held an uneasy peace.

  • Trouble had been brewing for the last few weeks, after minority student unions and non-Bodo tribes began pressing their demand for greater representation in the BTC.

  • More than 40 lives have been lost and nearly 1.7 lakh people displaced. The army has finally been called in:

  • The area under the BTC's jurisdiction has seen undercurrents of tension even after the Bodo Accord of 2003.

  • The Bodo movement has its roots in the agitation against tribal land being acquired by immigrants. Land is a fundamental issue in the region that remains unresolved.

  • On the other side of the divide, the minorities and non-Bodo tribes allege discrimination in political representation, since the BTC structure has given a larger say to the Bodos. Over the years, this powersharing arrangement has appeared to rest on increasingly unstable ground.

  • Finally, the Bodo Accord failed to ensure a round-up of the arms of the erstwhile Bodoland Liberation Tigers (BLT). Still in circulation, they sharpen the edges of the already fragile equations between groups.

  • Both the state and the Union governments appear to have misread and mismanaged the situation in a district that has witnessed large-scale clashes in 1993, 1994, 1996 and as recently as 2008.

  • Kokrajhar is the landlocked Northeast's narrow passage to mainland India through the ‘chickens neck’ If the current trouble had been anticipated and adequate and visible security provided for at the first sign of trouble, the Northeast would not have been virtually cut off from the country.

  • The confrontation has been labelled ethnic, but economic and even educational anxieties are as much at work as the desire to preserve socio-cultural and ethnic identities. Insecurities relating to land, forest rights and a shrinking job market have created a combustible mix.

  • The long-term goal, obviously, is to re-envision Assam as a place where ascriptive identities do not disrupt civic relationships. The state needs to keep working on achieving the right balance of development activity.

  • The key to this will be restoration of mutual trust. This should be based primarily on systematic measures to address fears over loss of ownership and right to land, and concerns over denial of access to resources, development, and means of livelihood.

Courtesy: The Hindu