Four statehood demands rock Assam amidst violence

Guwahati: The UPA government's decision to create Telangana has brought long-standing demands by four ethnic groups for separate states carved out of Assam to the fore, with large-scale violence and agitation erupting in the state.
Bodos, Karbi, Dimasas and Koch-Rajbongshis have demanded separate states. The hill district of Karbi Anglong witnessed violence with two persons killed and several injured.
The All Bodo Students' Union was observing a 12-hour rail blockade on Friday with several organisations, including the Bodo Sahitya Sabha, All Bodo Women's Federation, Bodoland Peoples Progressive Front, NDFB(P), People Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement.
The ABSU has also called a 60-hour strike from August 5 to demand a separate state for Bodos. The United Democratic People's Front, comprising several Bodo organisations, has called a 1500-hour strike, the longest ever in the region, from August five on the same demand.
The National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Progressive and the People's Joint Action Committee for Bodoland Movement have jointly called a 100-hour highway blockade from August 13 and will observe a 24-hour hunger-strike on August 20 at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.
The Bodo Peoples' Front, an ally of the ruling Congress in the state government, has also stepped up demand for a separate state for the community and had met Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde last Wednesday at New Delhi.
The All Koch Rajbongshi Students' Union has begun a 36-hour Assam strike from Thursday demanding a separate Kamtapur state which would be followed by a 100-hour hunger-strike and a bandh on Independence Day. The Hills State Democratic Party has called a 100-hour strike in the hill districts of Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong from August 5 demanding separate states of Dima Hasoa and Karbi Anglong. 
The HSDP observed a 10-hour bandh in Dima Hasao district on Thursday demanding a separate Dima Hasao state. ABSU President Pramode Boro today said that the decision to create Telangana was discriminatory.
 
"Our long-standing demand has been ignored and the identity of Bodos is at stake. We will not stop our agitation at any cost till our demand for a separate Bodoland is met," he said.
 
The PJACBM, comprising 55 Bodo organisations, has also warned the government of intensifying the agitation if the demand for a separate Bodoland state was not met which was more than four decades old and its creation was as legitimate as Telangana.
 
"NDFB-P, which was holding talks with the Centre for the last seven years, has stressed that creation of Bodoland was imperative for safeguarding the identity, culture and protection of land of Bodos," outfit's general secretary Govind Basumatary said.
 
AKRSU President Biswajit Roy said that if the government failed to resolve the issue of a separate Kamtapur state they would be left with no option but to intensify the agitation. He claimed that the demand for Kamtapur was the oldest statehood demand dating back to 1969 and it was high time that the government took the issue seriously.
 
Major political parties in Assam - AIUDF, AGP and BJP along with the ruling Congress were opposed to the creation of separate states. AGP President Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said that the creation of Telangana would lead to demands for more states in Assam, but any further division would not lead to economic development of the state for its people.
 
The AIUDF, the major opposition party in the state assembly, has also stated that it was opposed to any further division of the state. BJP's Assam unit president Sarbananda Sonowal said that his party was not in favour of any further division of the state, but would work for the creation of a greater Assam. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who left for New Delhi Thursday evening, has also said that the party was not for any further division of the state.
 
"We must stay as one unit but will ask the Centre to remove the sense of alienation among ethnic groups and remove their grievances which has led to such demands," he said.
 
Assam has been divided thrice since Independence with Nagaland carved out in 1963, Meghalaya with the passing of North Eastern (Reorganisation Areas) Act in 1971 and Mizoram, which first became a Union Territory in 1971 and was later made a state in 1985.

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