Hopes for an end to long years of violent bush war brightened in Assam with an influential tribal separatist group deciding to surrender en masse and hold peace talks with New Delhi, officials said in Guwahati on Monday.
A police spokesperson said some 350 cadres and leaders of the outlawed Jewel Garlosa faction of the Dima Haolam Daogah (DHD-J), more popularly known as the Black Widow, have decided to surrender and join the peace process.
"The process is on with 193 Black Widow militants already surrendering their weapons before authorities, while about 157 more are expected to lay down their arms by Monday," Khagen Sharma, Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) said.
The Black Widow militants, active in the North Cachar Hills district of southern Assam, had unleashed a reign of terror in the region killing an estimated 100 people so far this year and attacking passenger trains, resulting in suspension of railway services for months.
"The nearly 350 militants would be put up in some designated camps," Sharma said.
A formal surrender ceremony is expected after September 22 when Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi returns from a visit to the US.
The DHD-J was formed in March 2003 following a split in the outfit. The faction led by Jewel Garlosa continued with its fight for an independent homeland for the majority Dimasa tribe, while its rival group led by guerrilla leader Dilip Nunisa entered into a ceasefire with New Delhi.
The decision by the Black Widow to surrender follows an ultimatum by central home minister P. Chidambaram last month to lay down arms by Sep 15 or face a stepped-up military offensive.
The Black Widow suffered a setback with police arresting its chief Jewel Garlosa from Bangalore in June.
"If all their top leaders and cadres surrender then we can expect peace in the region. We welcome their decision to join the peace process," Nunisa said.