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In this Idea Exchange moderated by Assistant Editor D K Singh, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh speaks about the Kokrajhar violence, governance in UPA-II and Rahul Gandhi's role in the party.
D K Singh: As the AICC general secretary in charge of Assam, what is your reading of the Kokrajhar violence?
Digvijaya Singh: Assam is not a very easy state to control. No other state has such ethnic diversity. There are 52 different tribal, ethnic groups there, most of them have got their own underground units. The politics in upper Assam, lower Assam and the Barak Valley are quite different. The conflict between the Bodos and the non-Bodos is historical. The Bodo Accord needs a fresh look. The population of Bodos in the Bodo tribal council area is only 30 per cent. The Accord saw one section of the militant group of Bodos come into the mainstream and they contested elections. But there are still two Bodo organisations, the NDFB and the Bodoland People's Front (BPF). Most of the conflicts arise because of land issues. Most of the labour in the area is Muslim and most of the landlords are Bodo. Figures for illegal migration are highly inflated. After the Assam Accord was signed in 1985, the AGP government identified only 2,600 illegal migrants during its five years in office. After the Assam Accord, there have been illegal migrants from both the Hindu and Muslim communities. So you can't say that all illegal migrants are Muslim. The Muslims formed the ABMSU (All Bodoland Minority Students Union). The government in Assam has to act very sensitively on the issue of ethnic conflict. It's not only between Hindus and Muslims or Bodos and Muslims but also between different tribal groups.
After the Bodo Accord, the Bodo Tribal Council is responsible for all the development work. The state government transfers the money, totally, to the Council. The Bodo Accord should be revisited. The non-Bodos should be given a fair share of power in the Bodo tribal area. We need to bridge the ethnic divide between them and the Muslims which appears to be almost total in some of these areas. Our first challenge is to resettle and rehabilitate 3,00,000 refugees, both Muslim and Bodo.