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Still want to talk peace with NDFB hawks?


wasbir hussain
director, Centre for Development and Peace Studies

How relevant or important is the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) led by Ranjan Daimary? That must actually be among the biggest worries confronting Daimary, currently under detention in Assam after being plucked out of Bangladesh with Dhaka’s active assistance in May. The moderate faction led by Dhiren Boro and Gobinda Basumatary is already walking down the peace lane, threatening to occupy whatever political space is left in Assam’s Bodo heartland. That must really be psyching out Daimary, among those who founded the NDFB in 1986 to press for an independent Bodo homeland. He was ousted by the moderates in December 2008 following the deadly serial blasts on October 30 that year which killed 100 and injured more than 300 others. In fact, Daimary was expelled after security agencies named him and his cronies to be the ones directly involved in the worst terror attack in the region’s insurgency history.

Under the circumstances, it was expected of Daimary and his faction to come up with moves that would force the Government to take note of its existence. Moreover, cadres of the anti-talk NDFB faction were getting killed or captured by security forces in sizeable numbers in the past few months, compelling the group to undertake drastic counter steps. It started by kidnapping people for ransom (remember the abduction of the forest official from Pune or the railway drivers?). But on November 1, the faction delivered a chilling warning by way of a press statement signed by its ‘deputy commander-in-chief’ Lt. B. Jwngkhang, threatening to kill “20 Indians” for a single Bodo civilian or cadre of the group killed by security forces.

The counter-insurgency apparatus in Assam did take the threat seriously and had even obtained advance information that the faction indeed meant to execute the threat should the situation warrant. The opportunity came on Monday, November 8, when Mahesh Basumatary, a Bodo, was killed in an encounter with the security forces. Within hours, cadres of the anti-talk NDFB faction struck with a vengeance, and ended up killing 24 innocent civilians, most of them non-Assamese speakers, in eleven separate attacks, spread over five districts. Not just that, the group called up local television stations and claimed responsibility, and threatened to carry out similar attacks to avenge the killing of Bodos. The caller claimed Mahesh Basumatary was an ‘innocent Bodo farmer’ and not an NDFB member.

The Government put up a brave face with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi stating in the State Assembly the morning after the attacks that they would clamp down on terror with a firm hand. Later, the authorities decided to launch an ‘integrated operation’ against the anti-talk NDFB group by security forces in Assam and adjoining Arunachal Pradesh as the rebels are said to be criss-crossing the two states at present. But the Chief Minister made it a point to qualify his tough statement by saying that his Government was ready to talk peace with anyone who wants to.

The question now is whether the State and the Central government are prepared to talk peace with the anti-talk NDFB faction that has claimed responsibility for killing the 24 innocent civilians as part of its so-called ‘war’ against the Government. Should the Government be in any hurry to embark on the peace process with a faction accused by security agencies of masterminding the deadly October 30, 2008 attacks? Actually, it is also important to raise the following questions: does the NDFB faction’s decision to kill 20 people for every Bodo civilian/cadre of the group killed have the approval of Ranjan Daimary? If yes, it is indeed ominous, and if not, it could mean he has minimum or no control over his commanders on the ground.

In fact, the NDFB hawks had chosen to put out its eye-for-an-eye press statement on November 1, the day Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) leader Khampa Borgoyari met Ranjan Daimary at the Nagaon Central Jail and talked matters relating to bringing peace back to the Bodo heartland. Was it timed as a snub to the former Bodo Liberation Tiger (BLT) leader’s peace efforts? After all, it was known to many that Borgoyari was to meet Daimary that day at the Nagaon jail. Well, things are murky to say the least and the anti-talk NDFB faction simply cannot keep sucking innocent civilians into the vortex of its armed campaign against the Indian state. That is unacceptable because armed struggle has to be between two combating forces only. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, briefed separately on the scenario by AGP and BJP leaders from Assam, air-dashed to Guwahati on November 12 to assess the situation for himself. It remains to be seen if the tough talk and the security rejig yield results.

(courtesy: The Sentinel)