TC Bureau Kokrajhar (Assam): Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the third Bodo peace accord as historic and exuded confidence it would permanently end militancy in Assam while iterating that development was now the only priority as he asked people to have faith in him promising to do everything to protect the rights of the state”s indigenous population.
Addressing a mammoth gathering of over five lakh euphoric people celebrating the accord at the Jangkritai Fwtar here, about 216 km from Guwahati, Modi asked militants in the northeast and Assam as well as the Maoist ultras to shun violence and return to the national mainstream.
Arriving by helicopter from Guwahati around 12.45 p.m., Modi was given a rousing welcome by hundreds of Bodo girls who performed the traditional ”Bagurumba” dance, amid loud cries of “Long live Narendra Modi”.
Visibly happy at the huge gathering, that included a large number of women, Modi called it the largest rally in independent India and said: “I have addressed many rallies. But never have I seen such a sea of humanity.”
“Lasting peace was not established after the previous accords in 1993 and 2003. Now the Centre, state and all Bodo groups have committed to this historic accord. So now, development is our first and last priority,” Modi said, telling the crowd he was their man.
“Friends, have faith in me. I won’t be found wanting in whatever I can do to relieve your pain and suffering, and for fulfilling your hopes and aspirations, expectations and for a bright future of your children,” said the Prime Minister, who garlanded a bust of late All Bodo Students Union President Upendranath Brahma soon after his arrival.
He said for so many decades, only bullets were being fired in the Bodo areas day and night, but now the “avenue has opened for a new and peaceful India and for the return of permanent peace in the region”.
Modi said the accord was all the more special, as it has come at a time when the nation was celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. In fact, Modi concluded his speech by raising the slogan of “Mahatma Gandhi amar rahe” thrice after the customary chanting of “Bharat Mata ki jai”.
Top leaders of Bodo militant groups belonging to various factions of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland as also a large number of its cadres who have laid down arms, were present at the rally.
“I know, and can guess, in what condition you are after shunning guns and pistols, and violence… I will see that in this path of peace, not even a thorn can prick you,” Modi assured the surrendered militants, asking the crowd to stand and applaud for peace.
There were constant chants of “Modi, Modi”, as people converged from the four Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) – Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Chirang and Baksa – and other regions of the state to hear the Prime Minister.
Kokrajhar had been decked up ahead of Modi”s trip with banners, festoons and big hoardings seemingly omnipresent to “thank” him for the peace accord.
Modi assailed forces spreading rumours that lakhs of people will come to Assam from outside after the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and assured the indigenous people of the state that nothing of that sort will happen.
He also assured the Assamese people that the Centre and the state government would try to quickly implement Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord that pledges to provide constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social and linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
Slamming previous governments at the Centre for keeping issues and problems unresolved for decades in various areas, including northeastern states for the sake of votes, Modi said such an approach led to alienation of a section of people from the region who had started losing faith in the Indian Constitution and democracy.
In contrast, Modi said his government has adopted a new approach to the sensitive issues of the northeast by gauging the aspirations and emotional context of various states of the region, and undertaking widespread development work, whch has helped reduce extremism.
Appealing to militants in the northeast, Jammu and Kashmir and Maoists to leave arms and join the national mainstream, Modi said they can get nothing by following the path of violence.
“I tell the Naxalites (Maoists), those in the northeast and Kashmir, who still have faith in bombs, guns and pistols, to learn from the Bodo youths, take inspiration from them and come to the mainstream. Live your life, celebrate life,” Modi said.
In an indirect appeal to the banned United Liberation Front of Assam and its fugitive chief Paresh Barua, he said: “I appeal to those still nurturing some inimical thoughts regarding the country to shun such thoughts and come to the mainstream of development and take part in ”sab ke sath, sab ke vikas” (development for all)”.