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Need Moratorium on Talks with Newer Rebel Factions

POSTED ON 31 JULY 2010

wasbir hussain
director, Centre for Development and Peace Studies

The Ranjan Daimary faction of the NDFB is desperately trying to prove that it is the only potent badshah of terror in Assam today. If desperate rebels of the faction blew up a train track in Kokrajhar district on July 8 that killed a child and injured a dozen others, and ambushed an SSB patrol, killing four troopers on July 26, it was to prove just one thing— that the faction was alive and kicking and must be taken seriously by the authorities. One faction of the NDFB is already on a ceasefire and is talking to the Government. The recalcitrant group that is indulging in the latest bouts of terror has just seen its Bangladesh-based chief Daimary being picked up by authorities in Dhaka and handed over to India where he is being quizzed by security agencies of all hues since May. So, no prizes for guessing that the anti-peace talks NDFB faction is desperately trying to gain some legitimacy to the fact that it is an armed band that must be factored in by the Government of India in its quest for peace in the Bodo heartland.

New Delhi would do well not to fall in this trap and declare that there was no question of talking to the recalcitrant NDFB faction unless it agrees to a truce, make it cadres come out and stay in designated camps, and shun all terror acts. In fact, it is high time the Government of India make a formal announcement that it was not going to hold any peace talks whatsoever with any new militant group or faction in the Northeast. This is because the deals reached in the past by the Government with militant groups in the region have actually acted as a catalyst for new militant groups to emerge on the scene. Before the deals or possible deals, of course, the rebels have carried out depredations to get noticed, made money by extorting terrified business organizations or wealthy individuals. By the time the faction or group is ready to enter into a ceasefire or join the process of talks, its leaders have made crores of rupees. Well, Niranjan Hojai, the first-surrendered-later-arrested ‘commander’ of the DHD (J) is a fine example.

The Government’s counter-insurgency policy henceforth should include the clear stand that New Delhi was not going to have peace dialogues with any more insurgent group from the Northeast other than the ongoing ones or with those groups with which the stage is set for the start of peace negotiations. In fact, on July 15, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram ruled out talks with any new splinter group of militant outfits in the region. “It was decided that in the light of new splinter groups rising, there would be no more golden handshakes with militants. They can take benefits of the surrender policy for militants in the Northeast,” a senior Home Ministry official was quoted by a local newspaper from Guwahati.

Chidambaram has apparently conveyed his decision to officials from the Assam Police, perhaps after consultations with the Centre’s interlocutor for peace talks with various rebel groups in Assam, PC Haldar, a former director of the Intelligence Bureau. But that is not enough. New Delhi must say this formally and with an element of finality. Time has come to pursue a zero tolerance policy on terrorism. Dangling the carrot and actually letting killer gangs have them has for long been the biggest sustaining factor for insurgency in the Northeast. The sooner New Delhi manages to shed this practice the better it will be for the cause of peace in the region. A moratorium on new peace processes with rebel groups or factions can act as a deterrent and in fact might stop insurgent movements assuming newer forms and shapes in the days to come. At least, people will be less tempted to form insurgent groups and lead a violent campaign in the hope that one day they would reach a deal with the Government of India, join the political mainstream and come to represent their people.

(courtesy: The Sentinel)