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Search for an acceptable approach to regional constitutional problems

By Morning Star Sumer

The news report (NDFB celebrates 29th anniversary in Sonai) which appeared on page 4 of The Shillong Times issue of October 6, 2015, had not faithfully quoted me. The actual sentences as spoken by me read, “The problem in Boroland is not a religious one. It is a fight for land and land rights which is the basis upon which politics is built. Without land rights there can be no country” and, “…we need to discuss the issues of good governance threadbare before taking a decision on a course of action to ensure good governance through the law courts and NOT (REPEAT) NOT through the barrel of a gun”! The media may not have space enough to reflect truthfully the views of serious speakers and writers who vent their views through it. It is, therefore, opportune now, to broadcast the ideas that must have created such outfits as the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) which is singular among such outfits. These ideas may also bring us face to face with the truths that have been hidden from public view. These truths relate to the incontrovertible facts like the indigenous people’s right to land ownership. By no stretch of imagination can a civilized society argue against the right of indigenous people to govern themselves according to their own genius as sanctioned by the Constitution of the country within which such indigenous people happen to live. The fathers of our Constitution, under the guidance of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (the chief architect of India’s Constitution), had wisely enunciated the principles upon which our laws should be made, and, as more light might be shed over those laws, to reconsider and amend them to suit the climate of the times when people have to face the vicissitudes of life’s experiences on this planet. It has ever been my belief that good governance is the acme of a civilized polity while good governance itself should be the fruit of civilized laws. Therefore, I have always stressed/emphasized the truth that good governance should be within the constraint of the laws that the people have given to themselves.

The Constitution of India has sanctified the right of indigenous people to govern themselves by incorporating Schedules V and VI under its wings. The indigenous people of Meghalaya comprising the hills districts of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo Hills make up a total population of 18, 19,311 according to STATISTICAL HANDBOOK MEGHALAYA 2010-2011 based on the data compiled during the 2001 census enumeration. The estimated indigenous population of Boroland based upon the result of the 2001 census would not be less than 14 lakhs within the BTADs area. But Meghalaya has been enjoying the fruits of the Sixth Schedule since 1952 while the indigenous people of the BTADs are only now beginning to come within the ambit of the Schedule; that too, under the shadow of insurgency/militancy forced upon them by the callousness of the powers that be till now.  Why this anomaly?

The anomaly had been existing for so long because of the intransigence of both the Assam and Central Governments. The Assam government had the agenda of pleasing the large swathes of Assamese people while the Central Government has the agenda of wanting to have sway over a state with multifarious population – to the detriment of the state as a whole – while brazenly ignoring the rightful claim of a large group of indigenous people like the Boros to their own rights as enshrined in the Constitution! The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) should not be the only solution to the Bodoland issue. The Bodo people have the right to govern themselves as they may wish under the provisions of our Constitution! In the past the Bodo people had suffered grievously because of the intransigence of governments.

Now, it seems, the Central Government is becoming more reasonable by agreeing to discuss the demands of the Bodo people on the basis of constitutional provisions and the NDFB outfit is also more accommodating. We see this situation as an improvement in the climate of the environment for negotiation for peace. The magnanimity shown by the Central Government is not lost on the leaders of the NDFB. It is for the Central Government to take swift action to do justice to the Bodo people. However, the magnanimity may lose its shine if there are any signs of wavering on the part of the Central Government.

The recent political developments relating to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) are also sure to impact the demographic statistics of states if we are not alert to ensure that non-indigenous immigrants should not figure in the Register.

As Ranjan Daimari a.k.a. D.R. Nabla had said at the 29th Anniversary function, “The demand of separate state of Bodoland is not only for the Bodos but for the all round development, peace, unity and integrity of the whole communities residing in the proposed separate state of Bodoland”. However, the Central Government should not continue to procrastinate, but, should act decidedly and swiftly to remove all apprehension. There should be no room for deviation. In the past the Central governments were seen to have betrayed whatever promise had been given to the outfit. Now it is time to bury the past and turn a new leaf.

One should not fail to commend the BJP-led NDA Central Government’s act of magnanimity in agreeing to discuss the Bodo problem with the NDFB especially when one considers that the government had the duty to put down with a firm hand under the provisions of the IPC any group that take arms against the state. It shows that there are some sane elements among the powers that be that lent restraining hands to make them see the rights and wrongs of such action through right perspectives. Some sections of our people raise a hue and cry over the exemption to the NDFB leader by allowing him to have his own body guards in a designated area. Only those who might have witnessed the grand event on 3rd October, 2015 to celebrate the 29th foundation day of the outfit could truly appreciate the extent of respect to the outfit shown by the Bodo people on that day! The Central Government has certainly shown that it is open to serious discussion on the Bodo people’s problem, given the right climate in the environment of discussion. Reason and logic have not yet lost their relevance in the rhetoric of politics. Both sides should keep the ball rolling to the finish!

Postscript: In an article written by me under the caption, “Annexation by Immigration?” which appeared in the column of The Shillong Times issue of August 22, 2012 one aspect of the Bodoland issue was thoroughly discussed. It relates to the changed demographic imbalance which is visible when the indigenous population was reduced to a minority.  

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