Home Contact Us
Search :

Northeast - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#284, 9 November 1999
Managing Ethnic Conflict: Lessons from the Bodo Experience
Sanjay Kumar
Research Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University

The North Eastern part of India , which has often been mired in ethnic conflict over the question of one ethnic tribe trying to dominate the other or forcing its language or culture on another tribe, has caused ethnic strife. With the passage of time ethnic strife has translated into political movements demanding, initially, autonomy and in some extreme cases separation from the Indian State . But such ethnic conflicts have their roots in specifics historical circumstances. This kind of ethnic consequences and ethnic identify formation has provided a potent platform for waging war with the state.



The present article is an attempt to understand the ethnic autonomy movements in the North East with some emphasis on the Bodo problem. The article also looks for the probable solution to end such ethnic conflicts through constitutional reform by taking some lessons from the past. In fact, many academicians, intellectuals and politicians have stressed the need for a fresh look at the Constitution of India to look for solutions of such conflicts through constitutional reforms. They argue that by reforming and amending some-parts of the Constitution a member of objectives could be achieved and problems.



Different ethnic groups have been demanding autonomy (Karbi's Kacharis in Assam ) or creation of separate states (I.E. Bodos). The Bodo movement is mainly against the Assamese whom they think, are trying to establish their hegemony through cultural and linguistic domination. The imposition of Assamese language as a compulsory subject in the state services and in the school curriculum was taken as the manifestation of such hegemony. The Bodos are the single most numerous indigenous ethnic community in Assam . The All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU), which led the Bodo movement initially, built a wide Front of Bodo forces. Their concept of 'homeland state' elaborated by ABSU and United Tribal Nationalist Liberation Front (UTNLF) implied the status of union territory within the federation of India for the tribals residing in the plains of Assam . But this demand was later upgraded to separate statehood. Demands were also made for further creation of district councils under the provision of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. There was no trace of violence or insurgency at the time these movements started.



The Bodo Accord of 1993 was signed between the Assam Government (AGP), the Bodo leaders and the Union Congress government. The Accord did not concede to either a state or union territory to be carved out of Assam . Instead it provided for a statutory structure of autonomy within the state of Assam in the form of Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC). The council was equipped with its own legislative and executive organs. But the protective provisions made by the Congress government at the Centre did not help them and the AGP rule in Assam made the situation worse. The post Accord experience was disappointing. The ruling Congress party at the Center failed to reciprocate the confidence of Bodo leaders in federalizing institutions for autonomy within the state. Vital provisions of the accord were violated. And as a result the movement took a violent turn.



The northeastern part of India consisting of seven states has witnessed several ethnic movements at various points of time. Such ethnic movements and other issues combined by political evolution and development have led to demands of autonomy and separate statehood and often independence as well. The federal government, in turn, trying to put an end to such ethnic movements used military force and other kind of suppressions through state apparatus. But after a prolonged period, it allowed the creation of autonomous district council, reorganized the state boundaries and created new states. In spite of all this, the whole region is in the process of a complex multi-faceted transition with an inter-play of outsiders, foreigners, sons of the soil and tribal forces that have been still producing ethnic conflict, insider-outsider confrontation, trauma and tragedy. 



Constitutional accommodation and reform had been seen as more viable solution to such movements and conflicts than temporary arrangements and suppression from the state. In the past, astute political management and constitutional accommodation have harmonized much diversity, despite visible turbulence and confrontation. The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution already provides special protection to the people of Hill regions. The Mizo Accord signed in 1982 and Bodo Accord (1993) appeared to satisfy the demands and needs of the indigenous people but gradually failed to respond properly. 



If such genuine autonomy is not granted, there would be more violence in such regions and this will only hamper the growth of a peaceful civil society. Another way of meeting such demands is through constitutional reform under Sixth Schedule and also by creating and reviving institutions that can facilitate growth and security of the ethnic tribes. This will not only help in maintaining and managing cultural diversity of India but also its integrity. 






Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary

D Suba Chandran
Across the Durand Line: Who is in Control Now? Will That Change?
Taliban Talks and the Four Horsemen: Between Peace and Apocalypse
Pakistan: Talks about Talks with the Taliban, Again
Dateline Islamabad

Salma Malik
Pakistan and TTP: Dialogue or Military Action?
The Musharraf Trial & Beyond

Dateline Kabul

Mariam Safi
Afghanistan, US and the Peace Process: A Deal with the Taliban in 2014?
Dhaka Discourse

Prof Delwar Hossain
Bangladesh: Domestic Politics and External Actors
Bangladesh Post Elections 2014: Redefining Domestic Politics?

Eagle Eye

Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
US in Asia: A 'Non-Alignment' Strategy?
Indo-US Strategic Partnership Post Khobragade: The Long Shadow
East Asia Compass

Dr Sandip Mishra
North Korean Peace Gestures and Inter-Korea Relations
Japan: Implications of Indiscriminate Assertiveness
China, Japan, Korea and the US: Region at Crossroads

Himalayan Frontier

Pramod Jaiswal
Chinese Inroads to Nepal
Constituent Assembly-II: Rifts Emerging
Nepal: The Crisis over Proportional Representation and the RPP Divide
Maritime Matters

Vijay Sakhuja
Increasing Maritime Competition: IORA, IONS, Milan and the Indian Ocean Networks
China in the Indian Ocean: Deep Sea Forays
Iran Navy: Developing Long Sea Legs

Middle Kingdom

DS Rajan
China in the Indian Ocean: Competing Priorities
China-Japan Friction: How can India Respond?
Nuke Street

Amb Sheelkant Sharma
Nuclear Security Summit 2014 and the NTI Index
Nuclear Power: An Annual Report Card

Red Affairs

Bibhu Prasad
Maoists in the Northeast: Reality and Myth-Making
Surrender of Gudsa Usendi: Ominous beginning for the Naxals?
South Asian Dialectic

PR Chari
Federalism: Centre as Coordinator and Adjudicator
Limits of Federalism

Spotlight West Asia

Amb Ranjit Gupta
Saudi Arabia-US Estrangement: Implications for the Indian Subcontinent
Syria Today: Is Regime Change the Answer?
The Arab World: Trying Times Ahead
Strategic Space

Manpreet Sethi
US, China and the South Asian Nuclear Construct
Responding to Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: A Strategy for India

The Strategist

Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Strategic Non-Nuclear Weapons: An Essential Consort to a Doctrine of No First Use

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Fighting Terror: Use of Non-lethal Weapons

Obama’s Af-Pak Strategy: Why It Will Not Work

China’s Naval Strategy: Implications for India

The West and 26/11: A ‘Contain India’ Policy?

Should India Join NATO to Combat Terrorism?

The Future Combat System

Dealing with Pakistan: The Nuclear Dimension

Asymmetric Capabilities of China's Military

China: A Rising Threat in Space

China's Growing Defence Budget: Cause for Alarm

Kashmir: India and Pakistan back to Incrementalism

War on Terror and Revival of Drug Trade in Afghanistan

Nepal: Maoists hold State and People to Ransom

Dominance of China in the post-MFA World Raises Concern

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2014
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August
 2013  2012  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007  2006
 2005  2004  2003  2002  2001  2000  1999  1998

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map | IPCS Email
B 7/3 Lower Ground Floor, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi 110029, INDIA.
Tel: 91-11-4100 1900, 4165 2556, 4165 2557, 4165 2558, 4165 2559 Fax: (91-11) 41652560
© Copyright 2014, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
        Web Design by http://www.indiainternets.com