Soon after the Congress Working Committee announced its decision to grant statehood to Telangana on 30 July, in the Northeast of the country, violent demonstrations and protests broke out on the streets. Various ethnic groups came out, demanding the formation of separate states on ethnic and historical lines. If Telangana could be carved out, they felt, why not our state?
In Assam alone, five different statehood demands re-surfaced after years of uneasy calm.
On 31 July, Diphu, the district headquarters of Karbi Anglong district, erupted in flames, when angry mobs took to the streets, vandalising and setting fire to more than 60 government offices, several vehicles and houses of senior Congress leaders. Railway tracks were uprooted at several places, cutting off the region from the rest of the country. Members of the Karbi Students‚Äô Union and the NSUI feel that now is the time for the Centre to honour their 26-year-old demand for a separate Karbi autonomous state under Article 244A of the Constitution, the unique provision that allows for the formation of an autonomous state. At the time of this going to press ‚ÄĒ and despite a curfew, army flag marches, and shoot-at-sight orders ‚ÄĒ the district is still reeling under the aftermath of the violence.
In the neighbouring Dima Hasao district, the Dimaraji (Land of the Dimasas) demand for a separate state by the Dimasa tribals has gotten louder with the Hill State Democratic Party (HSDP) joining the Karbi chorus. Interestingly, the HSDP wants a separate tribal state comprising the twin districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao. ‚ÄúIf Telangana can be formed,‚ÄĚ says HSDP General Secretary Kanjang Terang, ‚Äúthen there is no reason why there cannot be a separate state of the Karbis and the Dimasas. Our demand is much older than Telangana and we will go to Delhi for a clear word.‚ÄĚ
The scene is not much different in the plains of lower Assam, where the Bodoland agitation has been fanned by the announcement on Telangana. From the late 80‚Äôs, the Bodos, the largest tribal group in Assam, have been demanding a separate state of Bodoland, a demand which the Centre had managed to quell with the creation of a territorial council. But, on 1 August, Bodo groups called for a 48-hour bandh in the state, leading to a situation, where the Northeast was effectively cut off from the rest of India.
‚ÄúThe Bodoland demand is a legitimate one that dates back to 1967,‚ÄĚ says Promod Boro, president of the All Bodo Students‚Äô Union (ABSU). ‚ÄúWe have seen two councils, one of which was an autonomous council, but the step-motherly attitude of the state government has meant that nothing has been of help and now we want a separate state. If Telangana is justified, then the Centre has to explain to us why Bodoland cannot happen.‚ÄĚ