Assam Assessment

 

Assam Assessment 2013

The year 2013 ended on violent notes of ethnic turmoil between the Karbis and the Rengma Nagas in southern Assam. On 28 December 2013, Naga Rengma Hills Protection Force (NRHPF) executed the cold-blooded murder of ten Karbis, nine of them near Nagaland’s commercial hub Dimapur. This was, however, a retaliatory action against the killing of nine Rengma Nagas by the KPLT (Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers) in the Chokihola area in Karbi Anglong on 27 December 2013. The stage was set for intra-tribal feuding. Altogether, 3,131 people (1,033 women and 911 children), about 1,600 of them Rengma Nagas and the rest Karbis, Adivasis and Nepalis, have since been displaced from their homes and are taking shelter in nine camps. Describing the cause of the attack, Assam Home Secretary G D Tripathi said, “The KPLT had issued a quit notice to Rengma Naga community sometime back, and had also fixed a deadline, which the latter ignored.” The community was targeted earlier in June 2013. Behind the conflict, there could be livelihood issues, land encroachment, and insecurity created by the Nagas among the non-Nagas in the Karbi Anglong district of Assam. However, the conflict between the two communities reveals a clear attempt at ethnic cleansing of the minority Nagas from the area.

On 21 November 2013, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that agitation for separate states by various groups had made western Assam and Karbi Anglong "vulnerable to ethnic and communal" tensions. Actually, ethnic mistrust and communal tension among the Bodos, Karbis and Dimasas in Assam increased dramatically with the raising of statehood demands after the Congress Working Committee announced its decision to create a separate Telangana state on 30 July 2013. The statehood demands that sprang up then included: Bodoland state demanded by the Bodos in Assam, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao state demanded by the Karbis and Dimasas in Assam, Kamatapur state demanded by the Koch Rajbonshis in Assam. In the Barak valley region of Assam, which comprises of the districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi, demands were renewed for a separate Union Territory named Barak Land comprising these three districts.

The silent spread of the Maoism (Communist Party of India-Maoist) in Assam has become a worrying factor. On 22 November 2013, the Union Home Minister said, “Maoist presence in Assam and border areas of Arunachal Pradesh have been noticed, in areas like Golaghat, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Tinsukia districts of Assam and Namsai area of Lohit district in Arunachal Pradesh.” Seven Maoist-related incidents were reported in 2013, in addition to 10 incidents in 2012, three in 2011 and one in 2010. Maoist activities in the region have been taken seriously by the Centre and on November 22, 2013, AFSPA was extended in Assam for another year with effect from December 4, 2013 and for the first time the Union Home Ministry cited Maoist activities in the state as one of the reasons for extending this Act.

Another point of concern in 2013 was the news of formation of a common platform of militant groups of the Northeast. This news was disclosed by Paresh Baruah, ‘commander in chief’ of the United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I) in December 2013, who said that the platform has been formed to jointly fight the ‘common enemy’ i.e. the Indian state.

Nevertheless, positive developments were visible in the government’s peace negotiations with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-Progressive). On 12 September 2013, a Suspension of Operations agreement was signed between the Ranjan Daimary faction of NDFB, the Central Government and the State Government, raising the number of insurgent groups talking peace with the government to 13 in Assam. These 13 outfits are: ULFA pro-talk faction, NDFB-Progressive, led by Govinda Basumatary, NDFB-Ranjan Daimary faction, Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF), Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA), United Kukigram Defence Army (UKDA), Hmar People's Convention (D) (HPC-D), Kuki Liberation Army (KLA), Adivasi Cobra Military of Assam (ACMA), Birsa Commando Force (BCF), Santhal Tiger Force (STF), All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA) and Adivasi People's Army (APA). Among these outfits, government has appointed interlocutor only in the case of ULFA and the two factions of NDFB.

However, facts presented in the State Assembly on 16 December 2013 by the Assam Forest Minister presented a disturbing picture. The Minister said that six new militant outfits had emerged in the state in the last two years. These include the Karbi National Liberation Army (KNLA), United Peoples Liberation Front (UPLF), Dima Halam Daogah-Action (DHD-A), Dima Jadi Naiso Army (DJNA), National Liberation Front of Bengalis (NLFB) and United Dimasa Kachari Liberation Front (UDKLF).

On the other hand, in July 2013, in a tripartite meet, the government agreed to the ULFA’s demand for ST status for five tribes - Moran, Motok, Chutia, Koch-Rajbongshi and Tai-Ahom - thus pushing the peace process a step forward. The 8 October 2012 Memorandum of Settlement among the central government, government of Assam and the factions of Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) & DHD-J (Jewel group) is another significant development.

At present, 12 militant groups are still active in Assam, of which six were recently formed. The most violent outfit in the State is the Songbijit faction of the NDFB, which has 300 members and the Paresh Baruah faction of the ULFA has 240. The other groups include Karbi People's Liberation Tiger (KPLT) with 40 members, Kamatapur Liberation Organization (KLO) with around 100 members, Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) with 40 members, the Assam Unit of the Harkat Ul Mujaheedin (HUM) with 40 members and the six newly formed outfits.

Assam Assessment 2012

Startling facts about Maoist bases in Assam surfaced on 21 February when a certain senior police personnel made evident that Maoists have set up command centers along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh, Assam-Nagaland and Assam-West Bengal borders. His disclosure further revealed that Maoists dispatched cadres to states outside Assam for training purposes. The Union Home Ministry on 21 March stated that CPI-Maoists established routes in Northeast India to acquire arms and ammunition. This bolsters the government’s internal security situation as far as movement of weaponry is concerned. In Assam the Revolutionary Peoples’ Guerrilla Army (RPGA) is the armed wing of the CPI-Maoist maintaining close contact with the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA)—an outfit active in the state of Manipur.

Speculations about the clash between settler Muslims and the native Bodos occupied most of the latter half of the year. The conflict this time claimed 109 lives and drove lakhs into relief camps more than in 2008 when both the communities had clashed in Darrang. Former Union Home Minister of Home Affairs P. Chidambaram during his two-day visit to the state on 30 July 2012 said that: "Assam is perhaps the most complex State administered in the country because people of various ethnicity lives together. People of the country must learn to live together as India is a plural society."

The conflict between the Bodos and settler populations in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD) of Assam resulted in the loss of continuing education on either side attracting protracted emergencies. In a span of almost two decades, conflict which has largely to do with ethnicity erupted five times displacing thousands. Most of the schools and colleges in the BTAD and Dhubri were used as Relief Camps to house the displaced. The riot affected districts were Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Dhubri.

Eight years of ceasefire after the Dima Halim Daogah– Dilip Nunisa ( DHD -N) and the Jewel Garlosa factions (DHD-J also known as Black Widow ( BW )) signed a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) with both the State and Central Governments on 8 October.

The year 2012 saw a good number of militants surrender. A total of 676 militants of seven outfits surrendered with 202 arms at the Sarusajai Sports Complex in Guwahati on 24 January. During the year, a total of 707 militants surrendered. Meanwhile ULFA-ATF remained active in the state with about 19 killings while the KPLT involved in 15 incidences of violence in 2012 according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Assam Assessment 2011

The infighting between the Rabhas and Garos in early January resulted in 27 deaths which the Government of Assam attributed to underground groups. About 50, 000 people became homeless when 1, 550 houses of 32 villages were set on fire.

On January 18, 2011 the anti-talk faction of the ULFA, led by Paresh Barua, released a photo of an ULFA training camp, with Paresh Barua and cadres posing with guns and a weapon display in the front. Again, after three days, on January 21, they released a video of Paresh Barua dressed in a camouflage fatigue dancing to the tune of Bihu songs along with 100-odd armed cadres in an unknown location. The video also showed the armed cadres shouting slogans in English demanding independence.

The anti-talk faction of the ULFA triggered a blast in Rajiv Bhavan, the headquarters of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC), on March 14, 2011, injuring five persons. On April 21, ULFA in a press release stated that all its battalions had been dissolved and there would be no more battalion commander of the outfit and all the armed wing members of the ULFA would function under the command of the mobile headquarters.

The year 2011 saw the birth of a new insurgent outfit Karbi Peoples Liberation Tiger (KPLT) in Karbi Anglong district of Assam. The outfit was formed on January 8, 2011 by an anti-peace talk breakaway group of 25 members of the Karbi Longri National Liberation Front (KLNLF), after it had laid down arms on February 11, 2010. The group is led by Nillip Enghi. The outfit’s major demands include autonomous statehood for Karbi Anglong and development of the education facilities in Karbi Anglong.

On January 16, 2011, KPLT launched a heavy attack on Manipur bound bullet tankers (bulk LPG carriers) on NH 39 near Bokajan in Karbi Anglong and abducted three drivers and handymen of the tankers. Again on January 25, 2011, KPLT cadres attacked a bus and a truck heading for Imphal from Guwahati at Deopani area along NH 39. On January 27, the outfit killed Duwarbagori Congress leader Mahen Engti for allegedly going against the interest of the militant group.

On April 2, 2011, KPLT gunned down four CRPF jawans and injured four others when an operation was launched by the CRPF against the outfit in the Deothar area under Bokajan police station in Karbi Anglong district. On June 8, 2011, KPLT militants shot dead Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council member Narendra Killing at Bokajan.

The All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) during its 43rd Annual Conference expressed resolve to step up their demands for Bodoland taking into account the clauses of the BTC Accord which have not yet been implemented. “We are compelled to revive the movement for a State on the basis of the opinions of the delegates and the people of the region. We will join hands with other organizations and parties supporting the cause of Bodoland", said ABSU President Pramod Bodo on 4 February.

On May 7, 2011, the Sanmilita Jatiya Abhibartan, which aims at facilitating peace talks between the Centre and the ULFA, formally hands over the charter of demands to the ULFA leadership for consideration. The charter of demands include the demand for certain amendments in the Constitution and issues like border row, timely and adequate distribution of funds, economic incentives, right over land and natural resources, right over petroleum resources, illegal infiltration and ethnic division. The ULFA leadership would go over the charter of demands before finalising it.

On June 19, 2011, the ‘deputy commander-in-chief’ of the pro-talk ULFA faction, Raju Baruah said that the outfit was ready to declare ceasefire formally to pave the way for peace talks with the Centre. The ceasefire declaration by the outfit is expected soon after some formalities are completed. This will be followed by signing of the suspension of operation between the Government and the outfit. This may happen either in the third or fourth week of July. The ceasefire ground rules will be finalized at the same time.

A total of 644 militants, most of them from the United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Anti Talks Faction (NDFB-ATF), and the Dimasa National Democratic Front (DNDF) reportedly surrendered till the third week of December. On 3 August, a 19-member DNDF militant group surrendered at Haflong in the Dima Hasao district of Assam with a battery of arms and ammunition which comprised AK series rifles, 1400 rounds live ammunition and 11 grenades. The ceremony in which the militants surrendered were jointly organized by the Dima Hasao district Police and the Indian Army.

Two Assam Police personnel were injured in a gun fight on 4 October by persons believed to be Maoists and made good with their service rifles at Sadiya in Tinsukia district. The favored playgrounds of the Left Wing Extremists (LWEs) run from Sadiya in Tinsukia district to the Dibang and Lohit Valley in Arunachal Pradesh. The fact that the Communist Party of India- Maoist (CPI-Maoist) is active in the state of Assam has raised security alarms all over the State.

Close to the formation of the new 35-member ULFA Pro-Talk Faction Peace Committee in October, the ULFA’s anti-talk faction (ULFA-ATF) on 23 November declared its new 16-member Central Committee. It is speculated that ULFA-PTF recruited about 120 cadres and indulged in money extorting sprees. The new Committee has Abhijeet Barman as ‘chairman in-charge’; Paresh Baruah as ‘commander-in-chief’ & ‘vice president’; and ‘colonel’ Jiban Moran as ‘assistant general secretary’ and ‘secretary finance in-charge’ .

On 25 November, a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) was signed between the Union Government and the UPDS. The MoS required UPDS to demobilize in about six month’s time and help in furthering the peace process. Following the MoS on 14 December, the UDPS expressed its unanimous intention to break down and mainstream. A total of 568 cadres which included 22 women members of the UPDS headed by its chairman Longsoder Senar surrendered along with a huge cache of arms at the Diphu Stadium. The arms included 85 AK Series Rifles, 18000 rounds of ammunition, 322 magazines, 18 pistols, 32 rifles and about 177 other types of weaponry. During the surrender, five militants of the Karbi Peoples’ Liberation Tiger (KPLT) also laid down their arms.

Thirty-two rebels of the NDFB -ATF including one from the United Liberation Front of Asom ( ULFA -ATF) on 10 December surrendered with arms. Three AK Series Assault Rifles, 24 pistols, nine hand-grenades and a large number of ammunition and explosives were laid before the Army .

Yearly Assessment:

2010

The state of Assam, once racked by insurgency, was a lot quieter during the year 2010. The situation improved after the arrests of top leaders of the insurgent groups of the state. The number of incidents of violence in Assam in the year 2010 decreased to 251 as compared to 424 in 2009. The majority of incidents of violence were attributable to United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). In 2010, a total of 158 persons, including 98 militants, 48 civilians and 12 Security Force personnel, were killed as against 392 persons, including 196 militants, 175 civilians and 21 Security Force personnel, killed in 2009. (Source: www.satp.org)

The major incidents of 2010 included:

January 2: Unidentified gunmen gunned down two NDFB–pro talk faction cadres and one labourer and injured another three at Mukuldanga village under Kachugaon PS in Kokrajhar district.

January 4: Suspected Naga militants ambushed a vehicle carrying Assam Police Special Task Force (APSTF) personnel and civilians at Mahur in NC Hills district killing at least three persons. The attack took place at around 2.30 pm between Leikhul and Hindu Input villages, 30 km from Mahur.

July 26: Four Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel were killed and three others injured in an ambush by NDFB militants at Sirklaijhora, 14 km north of Panbari under Bijni PS in Chirang district.

July 30: Five CRPF personnel were killed and 40 others injured when the bus on which they were travelling was blown off by a powerful blast on NH 37 at Bhalukdubi point near Goalpara. ULFA claimed responsibility for the attack.

October 3: Four NDFB-anti talk faction cadres were shot dead by the police at a thickly forested area at Dekatan in Dhemaji district, about 350 km east of Guwahati. The police also rescued a kidnapped businessman.

November 8: At least 19 persons, including 13 Hindi-speaking people, were killed and several others injured when militants of the anti talk faction of the NDFB went on a killing spree in five districts across Assam.

ULFA leaders, who were nabbed in Bangladesh in 2009 and handed over to Indian authorities, were released in 2010 as they expressed their desire to sit for talks. Arabinda Rajkhowa, ‘Chairman’ ULFA and Raju Barua, ‘Deputy Commander-in-Chief’ of ULFA wrote to Union Home Minister and Chief Minister, Assam offering to hold unconditional talks with the Government. Shri P C Haldar was appointed as Government of India Representative for peace talks with ULFA.

A significant role in the peace talks between the ULFA and the government was played by the ‘Sanmilita Jatiya Abhivartan’, a state level convention formed in April 2010. It is a forum of eminent citizens of the state led by eminent intellectual Dr Hiren Gohain. The ULFA later gave the Abhivarta, the task of preparing agenda for talks as well as the charter of demands.

The ULFA, though weakened by the arrests of its top leaders, still continued its violent activities under its elusive ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Barua. Reports suggested ULFA carrying out recruitments drives in upper Assam to recruit new cadres into its ranks. Paresh Barua also ruled out peace talks with the government saying that ULFA would not compromise with the issue of sovereignty.

The anti-talk faction of the NDFB was responsible for most of the violence activities in 2010. It was involved in 30 civilian killings in 2010. The faction, however, received a big blow when its leader Ranjan Daimari was arrested in Bangladesh and later handed over to Indian authorities on May 1, 2010. It suffered another major blow in December, 2010 when security forces arrested its deputy commander-in-chief B Jwangkhang alias George Boro in Aizawl, Mizoram. The other faction of the NDFB, led by B. Sungthagra alias Dhiren Boro, is in ceasefire with the government. On February 1, 2010, a delegation from this faction met the Centre's interlocutor in Assam, P C Haldar, to press for an early solution to its demands.

On November 19, 2010, about 43 Bodo political and non-political organisations came together to form the Bodo National Conference – a common platform to resolve various issues affecting the Bodo people. The Conference was formed in a bid to convince the NDFB- anti talk faction chairman Ranjan Daimary to join the peace process and also to ensure peace and unity among the Bodo people, and those living in the Bodo areas. On November 18, 2010, NDFB-pro talk faction cadres had distributed a map depicting a separate Bodoland to participants at the Bodo National Convention. NDFB cadres insisted that a resolution be passed by the Convention on the basis of the map. Though some important resolutions were adopted during the two-day national convention, the Bodoland State issue was not included in the new set of resolutions.

On February 11, 2010, about 400 cadres of the Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF), that was active in the Karbi Anglong district, laid down arms and surrendered to the Government at a formal ceremony in Diphu, some 270 kilometers south of Guwahati. The other insurgent group of the district, United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) held a round of peace talks with the central government and the state government on 22 December 2010 in New Delhi where all the three sides approved a draft accord paving the way for the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MoA). The UPDS has been in ceasefire with the government since May 23, 2002.

On July 12, 2010, the state forest minister Rockybul Hussain said in the State Legislative Assembly that seven new militant outfits have been formed in Assam in recent times. These nascent rebel outfits are the Liberation Democratic Council of Mising Land, the United Tribal Liberation Front, the United Tribal Revolutionary Army, the Dimasa National Liberation Front, the Gorkha Liberation Army, the Hills Tiger Force and the Santhal Tiger Force.

At present, Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreements are in force with seven insurgent groups. They are: UPDS, Dima Halam Daogah (Nunisa) faction (DHD-N), Dima Halam Daogah (Jewal) faction (DHD-J), KLNLF, NDFB (Dhiren Boro) faction, Adivasi Cobra Militants of Assam (ACMA) and Birsa Commando Force (BCF).

The year 2010 also saw the increasing efforts by the Maoists to establishing their network in Assam and other northeastern states. Security forces were concerned about links between the Maoists and the northeastern insurgent outfits after reports of meeting between Maoists and the ULFA in February 2010.

As a whole, the situation in Assam was quite peaceful compared to the earlier years. However, the problem of insurgency in still looming large over the state. Though a number of outfits are now in ceasefire mode with the government, the birth of a few new outfits is a point of concern. These new outfits have to be nipped in the bud in order to make peace reside on a permanent basis in the state.