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Ex-Ulfa leader upsets equations in Bodo bastion Kokrajhar

With Sarania joining politics, there have been several incidents of violence with his supporters targeting Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) workers.

Written by Samudra Gupta Kashyap | Kokrajhar |
Updated: April 22, 2014 3:34:18 am
Naba Kumar Sarania campaigns in Bagan Para. Naba Kumar Sarania campaigns in Bagan Para.

An Ulfa leader who was till recently with the Arabinda Rajkhowa-faction, engaged in peace negotiations with New Delhi, has upset all equations in Kokrajhar (ST) constituency which had always sent a Bodo tribal to Lok Sabha.

Naba Kumar Sarania, for long known as ULFA ‘709 Battalion Commander’ Hira Sarania, has quit the militant outfit and jumped into the electoral fray as an Independent backed by 13 small groups. He has promised to safeguard the interest of the non-Bodo people constituting nearly 60 per cent of Kokrajhar’s population, who, he felt, have been discriminated against and deprived of their rights by the Bodo regime that runs the Bodoland Territorial Council.

“I too belong to a Scheduled Tribe community, I have equal right to contest,” said Sarania, expelled from the Ulfa two weeks ago for contesting the elections.

With Sarania joining politics, there have been several incidents of violence with his supporters targeting Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) workers.

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Kokrajhar (ST) LS constituency comprises 10 Assembly segments, eight of which are reserved for ST. While all the eight ST segments are with the BPF, one open segment is with the BJP and the other with the AIUDF.

“Nearly nine lakh non-tribals have been deprived for long. Hundreds of innocent non-tribals have been killed and thousands uprooted over the years,” claimed Lafiqul Islam Ahmed, general secretary of All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU) which was among 13 groups backing Sarania.

While the former ULFA leader belongs to the Sarania-Kachari community that figures in the ST list, the non-Bodos have found in him a good candidate to take on the Bodos who have been representing Kokrajhar since 1952. “Muslims have mostly decided to vote for Sarania. We fear there might be another round of violence if Sarania wins. But then we have been suffering on a regular basis since 1993, the last round being 2012 when nearly three lakh Muslims had to take shelter in relief camps for several months,” said Ahmed.

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The rough community-wise break-up in Kokrajhar is: tribals (over 5.5 lakh), Muslims (3.1 lakh), Bengali Hindus (2.2 lakh), Assamese (2 lakh), Nepali (0.5 lakh) and Adivasis, comprising Santhal, Bheel, Munda, Oraon and others (1.5 lakh).

BPF candidate Chandan Brahma, however, said, “Muslims won’t vote for an Ulfa leader. Moreover, it is the BPF that runs the BTC that had rehabilitated the Muslims after the 2012 violence.”

A total of six candidates are in the fray in Kokrajhar.

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First published on: 22-04-2014 at 03:28:31 am
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