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Telangana stokes statehood demand in Northeast

Bodoland, Karbiland, Dimaraji, Kamatapur, Garoland... India`s northeast is witnessing renewed statehood demands from ethnic groups.

Updated: Dec 12, 2009, 13:30 PM IST

Guwahati: Bodoland, Karbiland, Dimaraji, Kamatapur, Garoland... India`s northeast is witnessing renewed statehood demands from ethnic groups, courtesy the central government`s `yes` to Telangana.
This has heightened fears of militant groups trying to hijack popular sentiments.

Already demands for Bodoland, Karbiland and Dimaraji for the tribal Bodos, Karbis and Dimasas respectively are getting strident in Assam.

The Koch Rajbonshis, an ethnic community in the state, has also joined the statehood bandwagon demanding a separate Kamatapur.

And not surprisingly, a number of rebel groups are already in existence among these ethnic communities, all demanding separate states, some within India and others seeking homelands outside the Indian union.

The situation in Assam is more intricate.

The outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) seeks a separate Bodoland, the Dima Haolam Daogah (DHD) demands a Dimaraji state, the Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front wants a Karbi homeland and the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) favours a Kamatapur homeland. Besides, several rag-tag rebel outfits are fighting for similar demands.

"If the government concedes to the demand of major tribal groups like the Bodos to carve out a Bodoland in Assam, there would be a bloodbath in the state as our demand for Kamatapur is equally genuine," warned Biswajit Rai, leader of the All Koch Rajbonshi Students Union.

These are warning signals for things to follow in Assam - known to be a hot spot of insurgency with rebel groups waiting in the wings to seize an opportunity to capitalize on public mood.

The NDFB is a case in point.

"Bodoland is our birthright and we must get it," the NDFB said in a statement, clearly hinting the separatist group might try and hijack the statehood demand raised by Bodo tribal political groups.

That the statehood demand by various ethnic groups in the northeast could be hijacked by rebels is evident from the statements coming from the states.

The Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC), an outlawed rebel group in Meghalaya, which seeks a separate Garoland for the Garo tribe, has already made its position clear.

"We are not asking for the moon, what we are demanding is genuine. Our demand for Garoland would get momentum now that the central government is initiating steps for a Telangana state," ANVC leader Arist Sangma said.

It would not be surprising to find some Manipur militant groups too joining the statehood demand.

The Assam government has already rejected demands for carving out separate states, a decision endorsed by the majority of the opposition parties on the floor of the state assembly Friday.

"We don`t want any more bifurcation of Assam and want to cohabit together in peace," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said amid din created by the Bodoland People`s Front (BPF), an ally of the ruling Congress.

But for the time being, the Telangana storm is sweeping through the northeast.