Kokrajhar (Assam): In his first visit to Assam since getting re-elected last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday hailed the Bodo Accord as the beginning of a new era of peace for the northeast and gave assurances on the Citizenship Amendment Act, which has created unrest in the state.
Addressing a gathering that he himself described as the largest political one in India since Independence, Modi outlined his government’s vision of development for the northeast in his speech as he looked to pivot back to the ‘Act East’ policy that has suffered a setback since major protests engulfed the region over the last two months.
The Prime Minister described the signing of the peace accord with the Bodos as a new dawn for the state, and called it the ushering of a “permanent peace”. “I welcome the people who were part of the Bodoland movement to the Indian mainstream,” the Prime Minister said.
Modi vowed his government would not let the “darkness of terrorism return to Assam” and said no citizen will die of violence anymore in this region.
“Never again will a brother, sister, mother or father ever lose a member of their family. Mothers whose children have returned from the wilderness are blessing me today. So many families have been reconciled,” he said.
The Bodo Accord was signed on January 27 by the government with four factions of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) and a civil society group, to bring an end to a three decade-long insurgency in the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD), now rechristened as Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR).
The new agreement is considered more exhaustive and wide-ranging than the previous two accords with Bodo groups in 1993 and 2003.
Modi’s rally was held in Kokrajhar, which falls under the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), and is, hence, exempted from the purview of the contentious CAA.
The Prime Minister, with his speech, concentrated mostly on the Peace Accord and his government’s outreach programmes for the northeast. But he also gave an assurance on the citizenship law, saying that it was untrue that the new law would allow “outsiders” to settle in the state.
The CAA seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who fled to India before 2015, whereas the Assam Accord had fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date to detect and deport foreigners from the state.
The PM, however, said there was a misinformation campaign underway that was to blame for the protests. “There groups that are spreading misinformation that CAA will pave the way for people to come outside and settle here… I am here to assure you that nothing of that sort will happen,” he said.
Calling the Bodo Accord a victory for peace, Modi said his government had agreed to every demand in the deal and now the biggest focus will be development of the region.
He said that under the accord, Rs 1500 crore will be given as a special developmental package to help the Bodos, and assured that every right, culture, language will be protected.
“All of India is thanking you (Bodo tribes) and celebrating with you. It is because you all agreed to living in peace and contribute towards a stronger India. You all have chosen peace and light,” he told the cheering crowd.
He also slipped in a jibe aimed at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in response to his ‘danda’ remark that has stirred a political storm.
“Some people talk about hitting me with sticks (danda) but why should I be afraid when I have such a huge support from you,” he said.