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Assam a ‘Disturbed’ State Yet Again


Arunav Goswami
research Fellow
, centre for development and peace studies

On November 22, 2013, the Union Home Ministry extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 in Assam for another year with effect from December 4, 2013 and once again gave the State a ‘disturbed area’ tag under the Act. This tag highlights the fact that the Assam government is yet to have full control over the law and order situation in the State. On December 16, 2013, Assam Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain said in the Assam Legislative Assembly that during 2013 (upto November 30), 1165 cases relating to killings, 3904 kidnappings, 1074 extortions, 1716 rape cases, 9394 theft, 266 dacoity, and 5233 dowry related cases, besides 10 cases relating to witch hunting have been registered in the police stations across the State. These figures indicate the state of law and order in Assam.

Another point that needs to be mentioned here is that the Home Ministry, while extending the ‘disturbed area’ tag over the state, has cited Maoist activities as one of the reasons. This is the first time that this reason was cited for continuing with the AFSPA in Assam. Arrests of senior Maoist leaders in Assam during 2013 had revealed that Maoists have deeply infiltrated various districts of Assam and the Home Ministry’s citing of this reason for extension of the AFSPA was fully justified.

Minister Rockybul Hussain had further informed the Assembly that 12 militant groups are still active in Assam, of which six were recently formed. The active militant groups in the State are the Paresh Baruah-led United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) (ULFA-I), which has around 240 members, the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) with 300 members, 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 and the Assam Unit of the Harkat Ul Mujaheedin (HUM) with 40 members. The MULTA is headed by Mansur and Ibrahim, while, the HUM is headed by Fazlur Rahman.

The six newly formed militant groups in Assam are - the Karbi National Liberation Army (KNLA), headed by Bidi Kuru Engjai and Ale Deng Eh, the United People's Liberation Front (UPLF), headed by U Karbi and P Dimassa, the Dima Halam Daugah (Action) (DHD-A), headed by Action Dimassa, who has been arrested, the Dima Jadi Naisao Army (DJNA), headed by Ramesh and Aiganon Dimasa, the National Liberation Front for Bengali (NLFB), headed by Abhijit Das and the United Dimasa Kachari Liberation Front (UDKLF), headed by Sasiron Langthasa, D Dimasa and Anuj Nunisa.

At present talks are going at the official level between the central government, Assam government and 13 insurgent outfits. These 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). Except ULFA, two factions of NDFB and KLNLF, the rest of the nine groups had surrendered en masse on January 24, 2012 at Guwahati in presence of then Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram. Among these outfits, government has appointed interlocutor only in the case of ULFA and the two factions of NDFB.

While it was a relief for security agencies that many major insurgent outfits in the State have entered into a ceasefire agreement with the government, the birth of these six new groups have shown that the agencies now have to be once again on its heels to control the activities of these nascent outfits. These outfits in order to make their presence felt may resort to various activities like abductions, bomb blasts, extortion, etc. As such, the security establishment in the State needs to devise a plan to nip the problem in the bud.

Another point of concern for the government authorities have now emerged with the ULFA (I) chief Paresh Baruah saying that the militant groups of the Northeast region have decided to form a common platform to fight jointly against the “common enemy” i.e. the Indian state. He had also said that more than 90 per cent of the work of forming the common platform has been completed. A common platform will allow these outfits to expand and strengthen their activities. As such the security agencies also need to step up their vigil as well as cooperate with each other in a better manner. Coordination among the police forces of the northeastern states is also of utmost need now.

During the three-day Conference of Directors General of Police (DGPs) held at New Delhi between November 21 and 23, 2013, Assam DGP Jayanta Narayan Choudhury had said that the rising number of extortion and kidnapping cases in Assam has become a cause of concern for the security establishment. He also admitted to infiltration by militants from Myanmar. During the same conference, on November 23, 2013, Prime Minster Manmohan Singh also accepted that the security situation in the northeastern states continues to remain complex, with insurgency, extortion and agitations being the main disruptive elements.

With major insurgent groups in the State under ceasefire, the Assam government now needs to take steps to control the activities of the other existing insurgent groups. They need to act fast so that these groups are not allowed to expand their influence or cadre base. Rising cases of abductions need to be tackled with efficient policing and also by increasing the strength of the police force by filling up the existing vacancies. The Assam government also needs to play its part to ensure that the law and order situation does not go out of hand and the State does not get embroiled in another cycle of violence.