Assam Council To Rehabilitate Displaced Santhals, Bodos, Muslims

Guwahati: Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) administration has decided to rehabilitate thousands of Santhals, Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims, displaced from their villages in ethnic riots and terrorism since 1996, BTC chief Pramod Bodo said on Sunday.

Over 2.5 lakh people were displaced since 1996 in separate Bodo-Santhal conflicts and militants’ violence in the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR), comprising the four western districts of Chirang, Baksa, Udalguri and Kokrajhar.

“The BTC has decided to take back the displaced Bodos, Santhals and others to their villages within the next three months. Some of the displaced people had been sheltered in relief camps for the past 25 years while others had relocated somewhere else,” Pramod Bodo told the media.

He said that the Bodoland areas witnessed many ethnic riots and militant violence with major incidents in 1996, 2008, 1998, and 2012.

Bodo, the President of the United Peoples’ Party Liberal (UPPL), said that the BTC is keen to rehabilitate the affected people in their original villages and create a harmonious and peaceful BTR.

He said that houses for the returnees would be built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and other area development plans would also be undertaken simultaneously.

“The riot and militancy-affected people did not return to their areas all these years due to security reasons. The BTC has decided to set up police posts in their villages,” he said.

The Santhals were also affected in December 2014 when the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) militants had carried out a series of violent attacks, killing around 76 people, in and around BTR.

Ethnic violence also witnessed between the Bodos and the Bengali-speaking Muslims in 2008 and 2012, leaving over 100 people dead and thousands displaced from their homes and villages. The NDFB extremists had also been involved in these violence.

The BTC head also said that the surrendered NDFB militants are also being rehabilitated.

“The Assam government would give Rs 160 crore for the rehabilitation of NDFB cadres,” he said.

Over 1,600 rebels, belonging to four factions of the NDFB, had laid down weapons on January 30 last year after the signing of the historic BTR pact in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The Centre has already provided a Rs 1,500 crore special development package to the BTC administration to undertake specific projects for the development of Bodo areas.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and the local Gana Suraksha Party (GSP) and the UPPL took over charge of the BTC in December last year, defeating the Congress-led alliance in the polls.