Northeast India crisis: Solution is to throw out illegal migrants, Bodo chief Hagrama Mohilary says
He is the man at the heart of all the action in Assam. His word can quell violence or signal a bloodier wave. A former militant who roamed the jungles of India’s northeast, Hagrama Mohilary is now the supreme leader of the Bodos. In an exclusive conversation with Anand Soondas, he talks about illegal immigrants, clashes between tribals and non-tribals, his fascination for football and the Euro Cup.
It’s been a long, hard journey from being a militant in Assam’s jungles to heading the BTC, a mini Bodo state. What next?
Well, BTC (Bodoland Territorial Council) still does not have the home department with it. We are hobbled without it. Had home (department) been with us, I’d have brought the situation under control quickly. People wouldn’t have to go through so much pain. The current scenario shows home should be given to the BTC.
Will Bodo MLA Pradip Brahma’s arrest affect your alliance with Assam’s Congress government?
Ours is a relationship forged over the last 10 years. How can it crumble and strain so easily? We will continue to support Tarun Gogoi. Bodo protesters allege the police were not fair to Brahma, that nothing was done to arrest those who killed four Bodo youths on July 20 that triggered large-scale violence and bloodshed. As protesters said on Thursday, Brahma’s guilt is yet to be proved. The police were biased. Though the Assam government is not responsible for this, I think the local administration made a mistake. Law and order is not among the 40 subjects transferred to BTC. So, we are helpless.
You say Bodos are not safe in their own land.
Look at the incidents in BTC areas recently. Four Bodo youths were killed in front of a police inspector and nothing happened to the attackers. What more can I say?
What will end the festering Bodo-Muslim clashes which show no signs of abating after so many deaths?
There is a permanent solution: throw out illegal immigrants. They should be pushed out and action should be taken against them.
Does the “growing Bangladeshi population”, which you say is made up of people who’ve come here illegally, threaten Bodo culture, their way of life and peace here?
Yes, it does, but not only in BTC. It is a threat to the country’s entire north-eastern region. It has to be taken seriously by all parties concerned.
If they are indeed illegal, who helps them enter India in such large numbers? Do you think the BSF here and the Border Guards Bangladesh have a hand?
I have been demanding a complete sealing of the international border with Bangladesh and action against Badruddin Ajmal (AIUDF leader and Dhubri MP). He is behind all this. He is facilitating the entry of illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators into India.
Is there a huge racket that organizes Indian documents for illegal immigrants? Aren’t people from your own departments then guilty of corruption?
Yes, yes, there is. But these are not done by BTC officials. The BTC doesn’t have such powers, or to deal with these cases and prevent them.
In the name of illegal Bangladeshis, are Indian Muslims being victimized and hounded out of villages so that their land can be grabbed?
Not at all, nor will it ever happen to any Indian Muslim. It’s a people’s case against Bangladeshi infiltrators, not our Indian Muslims. Nothing happens to Indian Muslims here.
Are radical elements among both Bodo and Muslim groups trying to take advantage of an already precarious situation?
There are no other radical groups playing mischief here except HUJI, Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam, and United Muslim National Army. They are bent upon creating problems not just here but throughout the country.
You have managed to win the love and faith of your people. What’s your advice in such troubled times?
I appeal to all sections of our people to maintain peace and be very restrained.
Those who know you closely say you work very hard, you are ruthless, but also have a soft side. Which is the real you?
People know about me. You should ask them.
Tell us about your family and children. How do you spend time when you’re with them?
I want my kids — twin sons — to learn our language, culture and way of life. My wife was doing some research work in Delhi before we got married, but now doesn’t get time after attending to the boys. I never miss a single Euro Cup match or World Cup games. Football does it for us.