Indian politics is not one of principles and those associated with it change their views to what is perceived to be the next best bet, says Promod Boro, whose ABSU group has announced a state-wide blockade and a mass hunger strike later this month in its bid to get a separate state for the Bodos, one of Assam's major tribes.
The president of the All Bodo Student Union (ABSU) said neither the Assam nor central governments -- both helmed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- came good on their promises made during the elections, of creating a separate Bodoland -- and of stemming the flow of illegal migration from neighbouring Bangladesh.
"I have seen that in Indian politics they do not work along any principles. They have no principles. (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi had said ki "sabko thaili leke bhagna padega" (they will have to flee with their bag and baggage). He said this not because he had a principled stand, but to garner votes, that's all," Boro said.
A leader with a significant following in the state, Boro spoke to IANS at the recently-concluded Samvaad culture festival organised by Tata Steel, where he was one of the invited speakers representing his tribe.
On the conduct of the state government, he said though it had promised to resolve the issue of illegal migration, it has failed not only in doing that but also in involving the tribals in policymaking, with access to those in the administration getting harder to crack for the latter.
"Their response has been of complete indifference (to the Bodo cause). They did say they had come for change... the Congress did not resolve the issue but it gave space for talks and the bureaucracy was also a little more responsive. But in this government, no response is coming either from the politicians or from bureaucrats. If they do not solve the problem soon, those who are restraining themselves are bound to lose their patience," he said.
Despite being a major tribe, the Bodos are facing discrimination on more than one front, Boro said, including that of language, with the supply of school text books being "irregular" and students being taught in Assamese instead of their mother tongue.
In addition to getting shortchanged thus, the Bodos are also incrementally losing their land with more than 50 per cent of what was once theirs going into the hands of "non-tribals -- Assamese and others, including migrants" over the years, Boro said.
This has happened despite the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act of 1886 barring the sale of tribal land, he said.
On the issue of illegal migration, Boro said it has become a "burden" over the years and "Bangladeshis" are being given proportionately more say in policymaking than the Bodos.
"The illegal population (from Bangladesh) has become a burden. Because till about a decade or so back there were areas where our people used to do community fishing; we do not have access to those areas any more. Their presence has become too visible. It is affecting our economy as well.
"They do not respect the Indian system either. We do not want violence against anyone. But there should be a policy intervention, a formal system in which indigenous people can feel secure. This is the responsibility of the Indian government," Boro said.
Given this "indifference" of the state government, the ABSU has announced a 24-hour blockade in the second week of December, a mass hunger strike in the last week and an economic blockade in January end.
The agitation is in response to the "lackadaisical attitude" of the Modi government and forgetting its "tall promises" when it came to power and also during the tripartite talks in April on the Bodoland issue.
(Vishal Narayan was in Jamshedpur at the invitation of Tata Steel. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)