‘Get rid of Bangladeshis, don’t force me to launch a fresh Bodoland movement’
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"Don't force me to launch a movement for a separate Bodoland. The Centre and the state government should not allow illegal immigrants from Bangladesh to stay in BTC. They are at the root of all the trouble," says Hagrama Mohilary, former head of the militant Bodoland Liberation Tigers and now chairperson of the political Bodoland People's Front, besides being chief executive of the BTC. He says he "does not want a separate Bodoland now" but what has happened with Bodos in the last one-and-a-half months makes strong enough a reason to raise the demand afresh.
The Assam government has been trying to get refugees, mostly Muslims, to return from refugee camps and Hagrama's party claims a large number of them are "Bangladeshi citizens who settled in BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts) illegally".
"Come what may, we will not allow Bangaldeshis to stay in BTC. Why should we take the responsibility of foreigners?" he says. "Not less than 2 lakh Bangladeshi Muslims have crossed the border and settled in BTAD over the last nine years. We have good relations with indigenous Bengali-speaking Muslims who have been living here for decades with land rights and voter identity cards."
He accused the government for being soft on infiltrators. "I have told the government that if the Bangladesh border is not sealed, the ethnic crisis will remain," says Hagrama, whose party claims Kokrajhar's Muslim population has gone up 10 per cent in 10 years.
"I had even told the state government Bangladeshi Muslims are forming militant organisations with the objective of a separate Muslimland with 14 districts, including the four in BTAD. They have formed the United Minority National Army in BTAD," he says.
He says the situation would not have turned so violent had efforts been made to involve the BTC in the peace process at the initial stage. "The government involved us after almost one-and-a-half months," he says.
Asked about the supply of arms to rioters, he says, "Money can fetch anything," but adds, "Bodos do not possess arms. We surrendered all our arms after the BLT was dissolved."
He says the arms in BTAD come from Myanmar and Bangladesh. On allegations that Bodo militants attacked Muslims in "army uniform", he said these are "bogus".
The North-East Students' Organisation has called a 12-hour bandh across the region – minus Assam – on Thursday to press for detection and deportation of Bangladeshi infiltrators. Assam has been spared in view of a planned NESO rally in Guwahati. In Karbi Anglong, a little-known group called Karbi Students and Youth Council has issued a "15-day deadline" to suspected Bangladeshis living in the hill district to voluntarily leave.
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