Ending The Armed Conflict In India (Bodoland)

Ending The Armed Conflict In India (Bodoland)

Year(s): 1993 – 2020.

Location: Bodoland Territorial Region, Assam, India.

UN Regional Group: Asia-Pacific.

Type of Conflict: Vertical (state-based) Intrastate Conflict, Horizontal (non-state) Intrastate Conflict.

Type of Initiative: Mediation of a peace agreement, diplomacy, and stabilising international borders.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, and India and the Assam regional administration.

Impact: Lasting.

Summary: The armed conflict between Bodo armed groups and Indian security services in Assam was finally ended in 2020 after several attempts to find a negotiated settlement.

Description of Case 

Northeast India is a diverse region geographically isolated from the rest of the country. Under British rule, states such as Assam became centres for the production of tea, leading to high levels of migration from other parts of India. Further demographic took place when considerable numbers of people fled East Pakistan during the war which led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.[1]  Amidst this upheaval, the predominantly Christian Bodo people (who are indigenous to Assam) were left with very little representation in state institutions, which were dominated locally by Assamese leaders, and faced constant struggles to protect their historic lands.[2] In 1986, the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) formed a militant organisation with the express intention of reversing the imposition of Assamese culture and language, displacing migrants, and creating a Bodo homeland within India.[3] After a series of armed clashes led to the deaths of over 300 people in the early 1990s, the regional government of Assam held talks with ABSU leaders in 1993. The negotiations culminated with the Memorandum of Settlement, which established the Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC) to govern the Bodo people. The Memorandum failed to identify the territorial jurisdiction of the BAC and the agreement itself was rejected my many Bodo groups, such as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), which launched its own armed insurgency.[4] By 2003, up to 3,500 NDFB militants armed with weapons allegedly supplied by Pakistani intelligence services were operating out of bases in Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar in pursuit of Bodo self-determination. A joint military operation between Bhutan and India dealt this movement a serious blow in 2003, opening the door to further negotiations.[5]

Thee 2003 negotiations created the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in place of the BAC, this time delineating a Bodo district within the state of Assam and enshrining the protection of the Bodo language.[6] Over the ensuing years, several other armed Bodo groups agreed to ceasefires (or strengthened existing ones) and began to disarm. Progress stalled once again in 2009, when some NDFB personnel split from the organisation and returned to insurgency. This faction split even further in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in 2008 and 2012, leaving a complex web of small armed groups which rejected the peace process. In 2020, after years of talks, all four factions of the NDFB signed a revitalised peace agreement with the Government of India and the regional administration of Assam. This accord ended the conflict, established the Bodoland Territorial Region within Assam, and provided the BTC with increased autonomy and revenue.[7]

[1] UCDP. India: Bodoland. (UCDP, 2022) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/conflict/421 (Accessed 11/01/2022)

[2] Suryasikha Pathak. “Ethnic Violence in Bodoland.” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 47, No. 34. (2012) p.20

[3] Anuradha M. Chenoy & Kamal A. Mitra Chenoy. Maoist and Other Armed Conflicts. (Haryana: Penguin, 2010) p.42

[4] Swarna Rajagopalan. “Peace Accords in Northeast India: Journey over Milestones.” East-West Center Policy Studies, No. 46. (2008) pp.19-20

[5] E.N. Rammohan. “The Insurgent Northeast.” in Sanjoy Hazarika & V.R. Raghavan, eds. Conflicts in the Northeast: Internal and External Effects. (New Delhi: Vij Books, 2011) p.98

[6] Memorandum of Settlement on Bodoland Territorial Council, 2003. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/india-memorandum-settlement-bodoland2003 (Accessed 11/01/2022)

[7] Sushanto Talukdar. “The third Bodo accord: A new deal.” Frontline. (28 February 2020) Available at: https://frontline.thehindu.com/the-nation/article30800941.ece (Accessed 11/01/2022)