History and Status of the Bodoland Movement in Assam

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The concepts of authority over territory, over language, over land and resources are the prominent matters for any individual and when this authoritative power comes at risk by the outer forces, resistance takes place, movements occurs in order to get the existing rights. The Union of India is a clear example which has and is facing the separatists’ movements in India starting from the Nagaland in 1963. The Bodo community which contributed to the Assam felt like they were ignored and not given required respect. They felt that their cultural heritage, language, identity was in danger through various plans and programs by the Assam Government and through upper class influence. Bodos felt that they are neglected, deprived and exploited by both of them. They realized that there is a need to protect the existence of community which was in danger due to various social and cultural attributes.

The Bodo community which is now an Autonomous Administrative Council struggled hard for the separate state within the territory of India, but with the changing time lag, the demands were changed. The different phases moulded the demands of Bodo community. The first phase bought Political Awakening with the different groups and people, second phase bought the issue of language, third phase demanded the political autonomy, fourth phase demanded for the separate statehood and fifth phase came up with the post accord demands and secessionist movements.

This paper talks about the different phases of struggle by the Bodos and how the policies came into effect and were influenced by the various groups and their socio-political impact on the Bodo community and other communities living there.

Keywords: secessionist, assertions, autonomy, statehood, integrationist, BAC and BTC, Fratricidal


Since ages, Assam has been the juncture for the interaction for the different kinds of groups pertaining their distinct cultures. It became home to small subsistence-agriculture- based ethnic groups, corporate migrants and traders. These groups moved between South Asia, Southeast Asia and Inner Asia. The Bodos are among these people who settled on the banks of river Brahmaputra and became indwellers of the place. (Basumatary, 2014)


The Bodo or Boro community is the largest indigenous ethnic groups living in the Assam. After the arrival of colonial rule and britishers the word boro changed into bodo. In the book “ The Kacharis” written by author S.Endle mentions that the word bodo is derived from the Bod which means Tibet and Kachari is derived from kachar which means near the river. It is believed that the community reached the Brahmaputra valley in the 12th century via Tibet and settled in the foothills of the eastern Himalayan range. The eastern range consists Assam, Tripura, North Bengal and parts of Bangladesh. The word Bod means home. The Bodos are the inhabitants of the Mongolian people who are denizens of the north of Himalayan region and west of China.

The Bodo community speaking boro language maintained same identity but now they maintained their different identities such as Rabha, Tiwa, Dimacha etc. the language has changed with the period of time due to different demographic factors and influences by the different communities migrating. If we consider linguistically, then Bodo include large group of people who are the speaker of Tibeto-Burman speeches. They are of the North and East Bengal, Assam and the country of Myanmar. (Basumatary D. , 2017) The language used by them is Boro or Boro Rao. In the present India, the indigenous group lives in the Plains of Assam.


Bodoland is a beautifull region in the north estern part of india where majorly people are dependent on the agriculture and shifting cultivation. It is an Autonomous Administrative Unit under 6th schedule of the constitution after certain Amendments. It was created after heavy struggle on 7th December 2003, curving out 8 districts of Assam namely Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamrup, Darang and Sonitpur within the state of Assam (BTC, 2016). The Bodos consists 5.5% of Population of Assam, on the other hand Bodoland includes 46.8% of Bodos, 4.6% of Non-Bodo Scheduled Tribe and 48% of Indian communities including Bengalis, Assamese, Nepalis and other Hindi speaking communities. The administrative unit was set in order to develop the economic, education, preservation of land right, linguistic aspiration, Socio-culture and ethnic identity of Bodos and above all to speed up the infrastructure development of communities in the BTC area (BTC, 2016).



The Bodo movement have been started to protect the lingo-cultural identity of the people because ethnicity, identity, culture, rights have been the key issues in the Northeastern regions of India. There were various issues evolved with the time but the core factors for the movement could be considered alienation, marginalization, discrimination, exploitation and deprivation from the dominant groups in the region. The socio-economic backwardness and the unacceptable behavior of state bought the people into the movement (Summinlunvualnam, 2016).

The background of the Bodo movement is did not take birth post independence but it has always existed since colonial period due to the issues discussed above. The immigration was the major factor for the fear of identity in the British period when Britishers officially allowed and encouraged immigrants which were landless peasants from districts of Bengal to the less populated area of Brahmaputra valley of Assam in order to undertake the development and cultivation of wastelands in the early 20th century. Among the immigrants, 90% of them were Muslims, who established around the valley between 1911-1931. There was massive increase of Muslim migrants from East Bengal (Bangladesh) and other areas which was threat to the survival and development of the original inhabitants of the land who were tribal’s, apart from this inflow of migrants was affecting the resources, culture, economy and society( (Bodoland Movement: A Study, 2015).

There was tremendous pressure from the migrants on the tribal population because they settled on the forest belts. Migrants lured tribals with high prices which resulted in lack of their resources and livelihood, which resulted that in the post colonial period the tribals were economically, and subservient politically highly dependent on the upper caste Hindus and landlords. Tribals were alienated from the benefits of industrialization. On the other hand Assam land and Regulation Act, 1947 could not do much which was enacted in order to protect the tribal land alienation and encroachment by the outsiders. The Bodos developed the feeling of acrimoniousness for the Assamese Hindus as they were dominant groups and were ruling since longer time, the Bodos anger exploded when the imposition of Assamese language as an official language and mode of education came into effect (Bodoland Movement: A Study, 2015). The central Government policy of reorganizing state boundaries in the north-east also played significant role in shaping the demand of Bodoland.

The Bodoland movement has several forms of demand changing from time to time through various actors posing different demands in violent or non-violent ways. It is not possible to incorporate each and every event of the movement, so the important events are put forward with the important actors. The first ever demand for a separate homeland along with the tribes situated on hill was demanded under the British rule, at the same time All Assam Plains Tribal League (AAPTL) came into effect in 1933. In continuation, several other organization were made such as Bodo Sahitya Sabha(BSS) in 1952, Plains Tribal Council of Assam (PTCA), and All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) in 1967 which reflected the pursuance for political power and self-determination (Basumatary J. , 2014).

Initially PTCA and ABSU were together in order to demand for a separate state but in 1979 ABSU withdrew itself from PTCA because during the reorganization process of Assam, PTCA failed to fulfill the demand for the separate state. After the election in 1987 by ABSU, President Upendranath Brahma proposed the idea to launch democratic mass revolution based on non-violent Gandhian principles, aiming to attain Bodoland by 1990 through 50-50 division of Assam. “The demands were within the Indian Union, not within Assam”. Clause 6 of the Assam accord which promised the safeguard of the Assamese culture was opposed by the leaders because it could have bought threat to the cultural identity of the Bodo people and other tribal groups through the imposition of language in Assam.

Later on, signing the accord by AASU bought shock to the Bodo people who could not fulfill the rights of the Bodos which bought Assamese conflicts and clashes between the groups in the end of 1980s. The initial demand for the autonomous state has changed into the separate state, which got adopted by the groups like Bodo Security Force (BSF) later renamed as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), whose demand is for the separate state. “The separatist ideology that the leadership of the movement articulated with a powerful impact is rooted in a deep sense of alienation”. “The ideology of the Bodoland movement carries strong elements of nativism and revivalism, but this nativistic ideology has been presented as one of liberation.24 The Bodo leadership propagates the idea of Bodoland through the assumption that political autonomy will remove their deprivations.” (Basumatary J. , 2014) Bodo movement is a transformative movement whose aim is to bring some structural and functional changes in the middle level in order to bring the positive distribution of power and resources. It is not based on ideology of classes but on the ethnic groups.


There are mainly five phases in the whole movement then the current phase comes after the birth of Bodoland Territorial Council in 2003. The first phase was the phase of political autonomy starting mainly from 1933-1952. In this phase leaders thought that the political autonomy will end the deprivations and struggles of the people so that political party was made. The main idea of the party was to protect the identities of the tribal. The second phase was phase of issue of language and script in the year from 1952-67, with the formation of BSS, the feeling of nationalism grew within people and there was a fear of enforce of Assamese language which could end their own Bodo language. The third phase was the demand for political autonomy within the territory of India from 1967-1986, where the movement took a leap. The congress gave the assurance of protection of tribal rights but it was not accepted. The fourth phase was the demand for separate statehood from 1987-1992, where ABSU took over the PTCA because it failed to fulfill the demands of the movement while signing the accord. The fifth phase was post accord in 1993 and the secessionist movement from 1993-2003, the accord of 1993 failed to meet the demands and was confusing on the part of both sides in reference to the territorial boundary.

Different groups started fighting with the state by both violent and non-violent ways, which resulted into riots, sufferings of local people. Later, the second accord was signed which is still continued in the year 2003 between Bodoland Liberation Tigers (BLT) and state which created Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) under modified provisions in the 6th schedule of the constitution. But BTC failed to preserve the ethnicity of the Bodo tribal (Summinlunvualnam, 2016). In the present phase the BLT has been broken and lead by BTC. The umbrella organization is tried to be built in order to strengthen the Bodo groups and to have holistic approach towards the common goal of separate state (Basumatary J. , 2014).


Bodoland movement was considered to be the peaceful movement but with the advent of time, situations stated changing and it took violent phase in the history. The roads, bridges, schools, public places, government offices were attacked and conflicts with different dominated communities took place. It was all started with the ABSU who deviated from peaceful movement to protests. It is believed that the Bodo People’s Action Committee (BPAC) which formed in 1988 was the first to start the military practices in order to mobilize people. Later ABSU and PTCA whose motive was same but became two major organizations who had conflicts with each other and gave birth to Fratricidal elements in the Bodo agitation, which resulted in the division of Bodo people on the question of Bodoland and its equation with Assam. The emergence of arms and militancy bought kidnapping, distortions, murders into the effect. In the continuation, things like militancy do not stop easily, which resulted to give birth to the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) and many others which had their own ideology on the matter of Bodoland (Basumatary J. , 2014).


The formation of Telangana, bought the demand of Bodoland into more powerful force. There was revival of demands. More than 1000 people participated in the hunger strike for the separate Bodoland in the month of March; they were promised by state that state will talk to the centre in this issue (Demand for Bodoland , 2016). The other demands were put forward in order to fullfil the socio-economic needs, cultural needs and educational needs to the central government. Through the tripartite talk on Bodoland issues, a memorandum was submitted by the three organization under the initiative of ABSU, the three organization were United Democratic Front (UDPF), People Join Action Committee for Bodoland Movement (PJACBM) and Peoples Progressive Front.

Total numbers of demands put forward were 21 but the main demands were as follows: “Creation of separate state of Bodoland on the line of Telengana state for tribal of Assam in north bank of the Brahmaputra carving out of Assam; Inclusion of Boro –Kacharis of Karbi-Anglong in to the state hill list; Equal status to the Bodo-Kacharis living various Tribal Autonomous Council of Assam; Protection of tribal lands from any kind of illegal encroachments by non-tribal including illegal infiltrators from neighbouring countries, forceful occupation of lands by the Government and transfer of any kind; Special protection with special constitutional provision to the Bodos throughout the country; Setting up of Central Bodo Language Promotion Bureau; Raising Bodo regiment in the Indian Army; Inner line permit” and other demands consisting for management institutes, airport etc., Resulting to this, a tripartite talk was held on 26th April 2017, where various Bodoland Movement groups, Central and State government was involved, but could not get the solid result , hence the demand is still pending for a separate state.

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