Recently, the Modi government succeeded in getting the Bodo peace accord concluded, which has paved way for peace after 4,000 deaths in the past few decades owing to violence by Bodo militant outfits.
In accordance with a tripartite agreement between the Centre, Assam government and the representatives of the Bodo outfits, all factions of the banned organisation, National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) have given up the demand for a separate Bodoland, thereby preserving the territorial integrity of the state of Assam.
Moving a step further towards peace, 1,615 NDFB cadres also laid down their arms in a surrender ceremony held at Guwahati. The cadres have deposited 178 arms, including some lethal ones, such as AK series rifle, M-16 rifle, 4803 rounds live ammunition, 14 grenades, one 2 inch mortar.
While the entire country seems to be celebrating this massive win, it is time to take a look at the Bodo youths who made the Peace Accord and also the historic surrender possible. Both the youths in their 20’s- one of them a coronated prince, Rajkumar Prithviraj Narayan Dev Mech and the other one, an IIT graduate, Thulunga Basumatary, deserve to be credited with this historic development.
In an almost unbelievable story, the two youths volunteered to go to Myanmar and persuade the NDFB rebels based there to give up on violence and return to the mainstream.
The initiative, which obviously had the backing of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, worked wonders as the historic tripartite peace accord, drafted by the two youths, was accepted and adopted almost in entirety. The signing of the agreement has made the dream of creating a society without guns a reality.
The coronated prince, who is the 19th descendant of the Boro King Chikra Mech has given a vivid description of the duo’s enthralling experience.
He said, “If anything had gone wrong in Myanmar, me and my partner Thulunga Basumatary could have been killed…we were on a foreign country and we had gone on our own.”
The duo embarked towards the NDFB (S) hideout after getting the leave of the Home Ministry. They flew from New Delhi to Bangkok, from where they travelled to Mandalay in Myanmar on December 9.
According to the Prince, “From Mandalay, we (the two Bodo youths) travelled three hours by a hired vehicle, discussed with the NDFB (S) leaders and convinced them to join the mainstream and on December 10 we all travelled westwards and entered India at Moreh the next day.”
The IIT grad disclosed, “We had already submitted the draft memorandum of settlement on behalf of NDFB (S) to the government of India after which the government said it was swilling to negotiate.”
The tedious task took five to six months to complete, but the two youths say that they are satisfied as almost 80 per cent of what they had drafted has now found a place in the tripartite peace agreement. Thulunga has also said that the NDFB leadership is also satisfied.
He also said, “We wanted to keep it transparent and the turning point was when we met the families of NDFB(S) leaders and members to and gained their trust. We were also able to convince the NDFB (S) leadership in Myanmar that the Bodo people aspire for a society without guns and they were convinced.”
What the Bodo duo has achieved is indeed remarkable. With sheer courage and passion, they have brought a decades-old issue to an end. While its immediate impact is going to be felt in Assam, it is time the story is narrated even beyond Assam.
A coronated prince and an IIT graduate got together to put their native community on the path of peace and prosperity. This shows how local youth can play a big role in tackling separatism and violence.
The two deserve to be applauded about how they managed to convince the Union Home Ministry about their ambitious plan, travelled to Myanmar, and eventually got the NDFB cadre to shun the gun and join the mainstream.
This builds a strong case for educated locals in other North-eastern areas to persuade rebel groups and militants into joining the mainstream.
Similarly, in the Maoist areas, the locals can play a role in pulling ultras out of the Naxal ideology. With the passage of time, this could be taken up in Kashmir as well where religious indoctrination and radicalism has destroyed entire generations of Kashmiri youth.
There is no reason why we cannot adopt the strategy of using the locals to check radicalism and also set in the process of de-radicalism, especially at a time when we are exploring how the initiate the process of de-radicalism.
The Indian State doesn’t condemn those who surrender and lay down arms. In fact, the government supports the process of mainstreaming such rebels. Even in the case of Bodo militants, the government has announced a rehabilitation package for those who have laid down arms.
As such joining the mainstream is a very lucrative option in India’s context, which only bolsters the case for locals playing a role in appealing the rebel groups to shun violence, and opening the path for peace and prosperity.